On behalf of the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership (SOP) we wish everyone Happy Holidays and thank you for all that you do to help strengthen Fort Leonard Wood (FLW) and the FLW Region. Your unwavering support of our organization enables us to leverage our enduring and emerging partnerships and ensure a strong future for FLW, servicemen and women, families, retirees, veterans and our communities.
Over the past year the SOP has continued to work diligently in pursuing the organization’s vision of: regional communities, governments and organizations, FLW, and state and federal enablers working together as stakeholders to make the region an even better place to live, work and play, while enabling FLW mission success and advocating for FLW mission sustainment and growth.
This year we have together enjoyed many successes in large part due to our stakeholders’ trust, confidence, and active participation in the SOP. We appreciate the unparalleled support from our individual and sustaining members, as well as our elected leaders at the local, state, and federal levels. We are proud to say that our membership has grown to almost 450 and our communication network extends to over 2,500 folks here in the region.
As we wrap up the year, we wanted to reflect back on some of the many highlights we experienced together during what turned out to be a great 2018 here in the “Heart of America.”
We welcomed several new senior leaders at Fort Leonard Wood to include our new Commanding General, Major General Donna Martin; new MP School Commandant, Brigadier General Brian Bisacre; new FLW Command Sergeant Major, Command Sergeant Major James Breckinridge; new Garrison Commander, Colonel Eric Towns; and new Garrison Command Sergeant Major, Command Sergeant Major Faith Alexander. Although many of us previously knew some of these great leaders, we have enjoyed getting to know those that we had not met and continue to be encouraged by their outstanding support for our communities and the work being done on behalf of service members and their families.
During the past year we saw increased and new training missions at FLW, including an increase in Basic Combat Training in support of the Army’s planned end strength increase of 9,500 and the first Urban Search and Rescue courses being conducted. In 2019 we look forward to seeing these increases being sustained, as well as other opportunities such as the Engineer’s Subterranean Deliberate Breacher Course being established at FLW.
In 2018 our region benefited significantly by the year’s Defense Appropriations that granted a 2.4 percent pay raise for military personnel; funding for the Army increase in end strength; $100 million in funding for the design of a new hospital on FLW; $11.9 million for a new blood processing center; and an increase in Department of Defense Supplemental Impact Aid for our impacted school districts. At the state level our legislators appropriated $2 million to help design and begin building a new passenger terminal at our joint use airport on FLW. Additionally, our state legislators enacted seven pieces of new legislation that directly benefit service-members, families, and veterans. We are very grateful for all of the work that our federal and state level leaders accomplished for us in 2018.
At various points throughout the year we had several members of our Congressional Delegation (CODEL) including Senator Blunt and Representative Hartzler make multiple visits to FLW and our communities. Governor Parson visited FLW several times and served as the key note speaker at our annual meeting along with our FLW Commanding General. This year’s annual meeting set a record for attendance. In keeping with our approach of working closely with our CODEL, our team recently had the privilege to talk directly to Senator-elect Hawley about the important role that FLW plays in our national defense, the $2.5-billion impact of FLW on the state of Missouri, the work that the SOP does on behalf of the region and encouraged him to visit our region and FLW early in 2019. We look forward to working with the Senator-elect and his team as we have come accustomed to doing with all members of our CODEL and their very professional and supportive staffers.
In July a dozen of our community leaders from Lebanon, Rolla, St. Robert, and Waynesville traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Missouri’s CODEL and senior Army leaders. We were pleased to be able to meet with Senator Blunt, Senator McCaskill, Representative Hartzler, Representative Smith and the staff lead for Representative Graves. This was a very successful trip as we had broad representation from our region and were able to communicate several of our top priorities to our federal leaders.
Our SOP team remains active in several national organizations and attended national level events to include the Association of Defense Communities Installation Innovation Forum, National Summit, and the Emerging Defense Community Leadership Academy. We also attended the annual Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. along with many of our FLW senior leaders, Soldiers of Excellence, and community leaders. These continue to be great opportunities for us to grow our network, represent our region, and learn best practices from the many organizations like ours from across the country.
We continue to work hand in hand with our partners at the state level particularly our Missouri Military Advocate Joe Driskill and the Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement Commission (MMPEC). As we try to do each year, we hosted the MMPEC summer meeting at FLW and attended the other quarterly meetings across the state. There is tremendous progress being made at the state level to the benefit of the military and defense sector and we are glad to be the voice that represents the FLW Region at these very important meetings and events.
Other examples of our efforts during the year include our continuous work with the Cities of St. Robert and Waynesville and advocating for physical improvements and enhancement of commercial air service at the Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport; working with cities to implement multiple mitigation strategies to offset economic impacts of previous personnel reductions at FLW; working with four of our cities to challenge a proposed natural gas rate increase that negatively impacts our communities and FLW; successfully advocating for the Waynesville R-VI school district receiving a $1.25 million federal STEM related grant; hosting a renowned RAND researcher specializing in public to public partnership to help us better position ourselves in achieving mutually beneficial partnerships with FLW; hosting over a dozen Federal Executives from the St. Louis Federal Executive Board and allowing them to learn more about FLW, the region, and the work of the SOP; working with regional planning organizations to identify community infrastructure projects that could eventually be funded under the federal Defense Community Infrastructure Grant Program; assembling a regional tourism / recreation focus group that is collaborating on establishing a regional approach to promoting tourism in the four-county region; actively supporting state sponsored research projects on efforts to ensure Missouri is best in class in supporting military service members and family members; working closely with the Army Career Skills Program and the Missouri Department of Workforce Development on jobs for veterans and spouses with a focus on retaining them in the state; launching two regional surveys to help identify factors important to the economic development growth that will benefit the region; working with the state, various cities, and counties to secure CDBG, FEMA and SEMA funding to address various water resiliency capabilities in the community as well as with FLW.
In the coming year our work will continue to be guided by our four overarching goals of gaining positive recognition for the region, strengthening the region, strengthening Fort Leonard Wood and ensuring the viability of SOP. Our approach in the new year will continue to include:
• Working closely with Missouri’s CODEL and state leaders on matters related to the future of FLW and quality of life for military personnel and families
• Advocating for the retention of and growth of FLW missions
• Advocating for quality public education for military connected children in the region
• Advocating for major improvements in regional healthcare
• Improving commercial air transportation access to the region
• Pursuing public to public partnerships with the Army to reduce operational costs
• Bringing positive national attention to FLW and the region
• Advocating for improved quality of life for military members, families, and veterans
• Analyzing economic impacts of personnel reductions and identifying mitigation strategies
• Holding annual meetings for members, citizens, federal, state, local governmental leaders, business leaders, and military leaders to discuss the SOP’s successes, strategies, and opportunities
We are proud of the work we have done over the past year on behalf of the region and look forward to building on our accomplishments thereby ensuring the region’s short- and long-term success. We remain dedicated to further strengthening our team at the regional, state, and national levels as we continue to aggressively advocate for FLW and our region.
Again, we thank you for your support. We especially appreciate the funding support from both of our local municipalities and our regional private sector businesses which directly impact our collective success. We look forward to sharing our accomplishments throughout the upcoming year as we work together to strengthen FLW, add jobs, and ultimately create a positive economic impact for the region. Together we remain Focused on the Future!