Fort Leonard Wood population increase follows Base Realignment and Closure

Saturday, July 9, 2011 | 6:42 p.m. CDT

FORT LEONARD WOOD — Its boundaries haven't changed, but the footprint of this sprawling, 63,000-acre U.S. Army post continues to expand.

Other installations have shrunk or disappeared entirely, but two decades of military consolidation have benefited Fort Leonard Wood, located about 90 miles northeast of Springfield.

Already home to the Army's Engineer, Military Police and Chemical Corps Schools, the fort gained several new training programs during the most recent round of the Base Realignment and Closure process in 2005.

In addition to its evolving training mission, the fort hosts several combat-ready units relocated from Europe.

The military surge instituted by President Bush in 2007 prompted additional growth at the fort, which provides initial military training as well as more advanced courses for members of all branches of the U.S. military.

Since 2008, more than $688 million in construction projects have been completed, are under way or pending, including $118 million in the fiscal year that started October 1.

"We're up to almost 90,000 students a year," compared to about 65,000 in 2005, said Rebecca Johnson, the highest-ranking civilian employee at the fort and deputy to Commanding General David Quantock.

"There's a lot of growth going on here."

One of only two "gender-integrated" basic training facilities — it trains male and female recruits side by side — Fort Leonard is responsible for training about 43 percent of the women now beginning careers in the Army.

"There's about 28,000 people in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood throughout the year," said Mark Premont, director of the fort's Plans, Analysis and Integration Office.

Almost two-thirds of those trainees stay at Fort Leonard Wood for advanced individual training, he said.

An average of about 12,300 new recruits are on the post at any one time, Premont said, contributing to an average daytime population at the post of about 34,000.

The jobs, as well as others in Waynesville, St. Robert and the surrounding area, contribute to the fort's estimated economic impact — direct military spending as well as related support jobs — of about $3 billion a year, he said.

In addition to powering a significant portion of the local economy, the fort also appears to be contributing to Pulaski County's rapidly expanding population.

The fifth fastest-growing county in Missouri, Pulaski County gained more than 11,000 residents — a 27 percent increase — between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.

Of those age 18 and older, a quarter are military veterans.

"Eight of 10 people stay here" after retiring, said Johnson.

Another round of Base Realignment and Closure isn't planned until 2015, but Premont — whose job includes assessing the needs of new units and preparing for their arrival — doesn't expect Fort Leonard Wood's growth to end soon.

On average, two to three new units or training programs have been added to the installation per year, he said.

"Currently we're looking at standing up a new police dog training unit," he said. A study also is under way concerning a possible move of the National Geospatial-Intelligence College from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Fort Leonard Wood.

If approved, the geospatial program — which includes high-level mapping training — would be another program shifted from Fort Belvoir.

Fort Leonard Wood gained the Prime Power School from the Virginia installation as part of the 2005 BRAC recommendations.

Housed in a new $27 million facility, the school trains service members to generate electricity using existing facilities or portable units capable of powering entire camps.

"They operate these big generators that are incredibly noisy," Premont said. "They're the kind of things that provide power to whole city blocks."

The secluded facility, opened in November, is a first for the fort, Premont said. "It is a (certified) LEED Gold building."

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Ellis Smith July 10, 2011 | 6:09 a.m.

The situation has contributed to the growth of Rolla [~18,000], county seat of Phelps County (adjacent to Pulaski County) and created a housing shortage that's impacted Missouri University of Science & Technology.

The first DOT-approved hyrdogen filling station in Missouri was created at Rolla, in part to fuel shuttle bus service between Rolla and Waynesville/Saint Robert. There's that much commuter traffic (people working at the Fort but living in Rolla and Phelps County).

Why wouldn't those who work at Fort Leonard Wood also live in Pulaski County? If you're asking that question we assume you know little about either Phelps or Pulaski counties.

(Report Comment)
J. R. Smith July 10, 2011 | 1:36 p.m.

Ellis makes a point that needs further exploration. Rolla (Phelps Cty) and Lebanon (Laclede Cty) both offer lower costs in housing and a more diverse shopping and eating selection. This lead to many who moved to FLW for work in the late 80's & 90's to locate to those cities. The lower cost of living and amenities negate the travel time to FLW. The steady influx of miitary personnel, and subsequent rotation out, have created a seller's market for housing keeping cost relatively high compared to the market in the rest of Missouri.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire July 10, 2011 | 2:28 p.m.

Send them to IRAQ!!!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 10, 2011 | 2:56 p.m.

@J. R. Smith:

Scintillating suggestions by our Middle Eastern expert aside, you are correct. I would also include St. James, Missouri (Phelps County) along with Lebanon and Rolla.

Generally speaking, counties in the Ozarks from Poplar Bluff to the western border of Missouri have increased in population and personal income in recent decades. This is partly due to settlement by retired persons and partly due to Branson.

(Report Comment)
J. R. Smith July 10, 2011 | 4:19 p.m.

I agree Ellis, you just don't notice it unless you've been around here for a while. Having grown up in the city I find the unhurried lifestyle in this area much less stressful. When we decided to stay in Pulaski Cty it was for my wife's job, eventually we will move closer to Springfield when she retires but till then the 90 min drive every other month for shopping in the city hasn't affected our lives.

(Report Comment)
Dewey Du Bose July 11, 2011 | 5:27 p.m.

Yep, Waynesvilles and St. Roberts are growning fasted than a politician can pick up a payoff. However, the one big thing that is and has been missing is something for the vast number of teenagers to do after school and during the long hot summer months. Yea the water park is cool, but really now, how many older teens are going to want to spend their summer days around a bunch of pre-teens? Why don't the county of Pulaski build a TEEN CENTER? WOW, what a neat idea. A place where teens can go had be with people in their same age group. Adult Supervision would be required at all times. No drugs, alcohol or smoking allowed on the property at any time.

Give our kids a chance to be kids.

(Report Comment)
Dewey Du Bose July 11, 2011 | 5:35 p.m.

Are there any other stores coming to Pulaski Country anytime in the near future? I like chicken, but every now and then I would like to have a steak, in other words, I'm sick and tired of Wal-Mart. And it is really a shame that when the parents of soldiers come to visit, the only place within 20 miles is a day trip to Wally World.

What does the future hold for Waynesville and St Bob?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 12, 2011 | 7:34 a.m.

"Are there any other stores coming to Pulaski County...?"

Don't know, and if so, will they be located at St. Bob/Waynesville or in neighboring Phelps County (Rolla)? Rolla and St. Bob now have Hampton Inns, for whatever progress that signifies.

For the forseeable future there will be no growth in size at Missouri University of Science & Technology (Rolla), where enrollment is capped. Whereas considerable state money flows into Columbia, the top payer in Rolla is the federal government.

Other than float trips, family recreational possibilities in the area are limited, although a private (but open to the public) park south of St. James is one of the best parks in the state. Excellent place to spend an afternoon in the spring or autumn if you have no classes, or spend part of a weekend if your money supply is low!

Some of us have been unhappy with lack of at least one "wowser" restaurant in the St. James-Rolla-Saint Robert-Waynesville area. We're talking about an Interstate location and more than a sufficient population, more than a few of whom can afford to patronize an upscale restaurant.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 12, 2011 | 8:51 a.m.

I can say with certainty that the Denny's in Rolla was no wowser when we made a recent stop there on the way to a float trip.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 12, 2011 | 9:33 a.m.

The local Steak 'n Shake probably won't make it to the restaurant reviews in the New York Times either, :) but it's within walking distance of Hampton Inn (if you don't get flattened crossing US 63). The best place to have lunch in the Rolla area is in St. James (at Meramec Winery), 12 miles east on I-44. Knowledgeable faculty and alumni eat there. I'd be happy to provide specific directions.

If St. James didn't exist, Rolla citizens and MS&T would be forced to invent it!

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 12, 2011 | 10:30 a.m.

Is that the only winery in St. James? The girlfriend and I made a detour to what I think was simply the St. James Winery, located in town. Had a delightful non-alcoholic peach/passion fruit (I believe) sparkling wine with lunch, and then used a punch recipe they had for sampling back at our campsite.

(Report Comment)
Dewey Du Bose July 12, 2011 | 11:04 a.m.

I would really like to see some replies from the members of the city counsels from St. Bob and Waynesville. Until we do get some answers from them, all we are doing is pizzing in the wind by posting here.

Here is a concern of mine. Why is the speed limit 15 miles per hour on the road next to Cracker Barrel, it it just another speed trap to help fund the city of St. Roberts? If the speed limit is 15 MPH for the citizens, then why don't police respect the posted speed limit?

And yes, I would like to see a responce from the city of ST.
Roberts here for all to see.

(Report Comment)
Dewey Du Bose July 12, 2011 | 11:11 a.m.

To the Citizens of Pulaski County: It is time to replace the current sheriff and his complete staff. The criminals that run the jail are bigger crooks than the one they have locked up inside. The news staff should do a one on one interviews with the inmates once they are released from jail. Ask question like: how much they have to pay the jailer(s) for cigarettes, etc?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith July 12, 2011 | 11:56 a.m.

@ John Schultz:

There are four (4) bonded wineries in St. James: Heinrichshaus Vineyard & Winery, Meramec Vineyards, St. James Winery and Three Squirrels Winery. The middle two listed are located on the I-44 north outer drive, east of Exit 195, and Meramec is the one with the gourmet lunch.

This is a major grape growing area in Missouri, both wine production and table grapes. What many people don't realize is that when they buy bottled wine from some other wineries the grapes were actually grown in Phelps county. Heinrichshaus is operated by Heinrich, who was born and learned the craft of wine making in Germany.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz July 12, 2011 | 1:50 p.m.

Dewey, I doubt you are going to see a response from those officials in a Columbia-based newspaper online comment...

(Report Comment)

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