When Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith thinks about the future of warfare he thinks about the basics — pitching tents and building relationships.
That makes sense in a world where the biggest threats come from disgruntled and disenfranchised civilians rather than government-sanctioned armies.
And Fort Leonard Wood, where Smith has been the commander since June, is the place where our Army (as well as other branches of the U.S. military) is learning the basics.
In the future, Smith says, our military will have to work with less money and fewer forces, and those forces will serve in more austere environments. Instead of arriving at a base set up with barracks and beds, as is the situation in Afghanistan, troops will more likely have to set up their own tents and campsites.
The most likely location in which future troops will work is Africa, Smith predicts, where they will work on projects to help rather than fight.
It is that “personal engagement” that Smith expects will shape the future of our military and our country’s relationships around the world.
It is also how Smith envisions the fort’s relationships with the community and the country.
On an international level, Fort Leonard Wood plays host to military members from around the world. It is in the Ozarks where many of those international visitors get their first impressions of the United States. With its impressive campus and training, that impression can be significant. But the willingness to work hand-in-hand with other countries and the hospitality extended by the camp and the community may make an even more significant impression on people who will bring that experience back to their homeland.
Smith believes that the same philosophy can work on a local level.
With the number of military veterans and retirees living in the region, support is key. That support runs in both directions — extending assistance to those vets and the support that veterans and their families extend to the fort.
Smith’s work with area universities, including Missouri State University, to work together to solve problems and meet needs is a great way to accomplish goals and encourage new leaders in both the military and education.
His work with the St. Louis and Springfield Cardinals on the issue of head trauma is an innovative way to approach a problem both the military and sports face.
All that effort is likely to pay off in many ways for both the fort and the community.
Copyright Springfield News-Leader. Reprinted with permission.