Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri – October 23, 2014 – Last week, representatives of the Fort Leonard Wood-Mid Missouri Chapter of the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), Soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood, and members of the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership staff attended the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center.
The meeting was packed with non-stop events and everything was kicked off with the opening ceremonies, which were held on Monday morning. During the ceremonies, the Sergeant Major of the Army William G. Bainbridge Medal was awarded to Command Sgt. Maj. (Retired) Richard (Rick) Morris of Waynesville, Mo.
The William G. Bainbridge Medal is awarded annually to a noncommissioned officer – Active, Army National Guard, Army Reserve or Retired – whose contributions to the Army and the local community have been significant. The award specifically highlights the importance of the contributions NCO’s make to the United States long after they take off the uniform.
Morris is a member of the local Fort Leonard Wood-Mid Missouri AUSA chapter. He served as president in 2013 and helped the chapter achieve their national Best Chapter award in 2012. The local AUSA chapter supports Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers and Families in a variety of ways, including sponsoring quarterly dinners to recognize Soldiers for their achievements and special group outings and activities for Wounded Warriors and their Families.
After Morris received his award, members of the group explored different parts of the exposition, including the exhibit floor. Almost 600 exhibitors from many defense sectors displayed state of the art products and invited attendees to interact with new technology.
Many group members also attended the corporate luncheon where they were able to hear Army Materiel Commander (AMC) General Via speak about a number of topics, specifically the importance of providing Soldiers with the best our nation has to offer.
“Most importantly, the AMC is building trust with the American people by ensuring that when the nation’s mothers and fathers voluntarily place the lives of their sons and daughters in our hands, the U.S. Army will give them their best training, the best leadership, and the best equipment that our nation can muster,” said Via.
On Monday evening, the group came back together for a chapter dinner at a local restaurant in Washington D.C. The dinner gave everyone, including the 16 Soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood that attended as guests of the local AUSA chapter, a chance to mingle and learn more about their connection to Fort Leonard Wood. The group also enjoyed the company of Maj. Gen. Leslie Smith, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence commanding general and Command Sgt. Maj. Terrence Murphy.
Everything got started bright and early for the entire group on Tuesday with the Congressional breakfast at the Senate Russell Office Building. The breakfast was hosted by Missouri U.S. Senator Roy Blunt and attended by many congressional staffers, as well as Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers and local community members.
The group was honored to have U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Commanding General David Perkins attend as the guest speaker. Gen. Perkins arrived early and took time to speak with community members and Soldiers, asking questions, and showing a great deal of interest in their daily responsibilities in the Army and at Fort Leonard Wood.
Fort Leonard Wood AUSA chapter president Steve Ehrhardt welcomed everyone to the breakfast and introduced Blunt, who took time to reiterate the positive aspects of Fort Leonard Wood and its importance to the Army. Blunt then introduced Perkins who provided an overview of the new TRADOC operating concept, as well as great insight into how today’s Army needs to use technology and innovation to overcome the enemy.
“The key to our future is our rate of innovation. The technology is not going to give us our [advantage] like it used to. What you have to do is innovate faster; you have to say I can use my night vision goggles better than you can use yours,” said Perkins.
After the breakfast, the excitement continued at the Eisenhower luncheon as Staff Sgt. Jonathan Miller of Fort Leonard Wood was awarded the Drill Sergeant of the Year award from U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno and Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler.
A number of forums were held on Tuesday afternoon and members of the SOP staff made it a point to attend these informational sessions. Forum topics included installation resiliency, the building of Army 2025, and family transitions.
One of the best attended forums was on the military’s Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission and featured a special address by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson. The panel was led by Army North (Fifth Army) Commander Lt. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins. The panel discussed the layered and coordinated response plans for a major earthquake in the New Madrid Fault, which exists under southeast Missouri and several surrounding states. The emphasis of the discussion was on the Army’s preparedness for such a national disaster and its role in coordination with other agencies.
On Tuesday evening, the Fort Leonard Wood AUSA chapter sponsored a hospitality suite at the Convention Center. Over 150 people attended the event. They enjoyed food and drinks and were entertained by the 399th Army band.
All those in attendance were lucky enough to be joined by Perkins and TRADOC Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey. Perkins made some brief remarks to the entire group, but he was adamant about spending additional time with the Soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood.
Before Perkins and Dailey began their discussion with the Soldiers, they presented coins to each of them. Afterwards, they asked the Soldiers to tell them what they would do or change if they were the TRADOC Commander or Command Sgt. Maj.
“I have never seen a TRADOC Commander spend so much time with one group of Soldiers. Both General Perkins and CSM Dailey personally connected with each Soldier and were really interested in learning about their experience at Fort Leonard Wood. It was incredible to see and I’m so glad they got that opportunity,” said Morris.
Also attending the reception was the Hon. Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and the environment. Hammack spoke with several members of the delegation and staff regarding the importance of Fort Leonard Wood, and her emphasis on exploring installation sustainability, including renewal energy and partnerships with local governments to reduce costs for the Army.
Several former general officers who have served at Fort Leonard Wood also attended the event, including Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr and Mrs. Spoehr, and Maj. Gen. Gregg Martin.
The final mission for the 16 Soldiers before they left our nation's capital, was a VIP Tour of Arlington National Cemetery which was guided by First Sgt. James Barrett III. Barrett, a former Fort Leonard Wood Drill Sergeant of the Year, is now assigned as the First Sergeant in the Old Guard and responsible for the Honor Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The group’s time at the AUSA conference concluded on a high note as members from the local chapter attended the Fifth Region Breakfast on Wednesday morning. The local chapter was honored with the following awards:
Best General Membership Meetings
Take the Hill
ILW Honor Roll
To view pictures from the AUSA meeting, click here.
Fort Leonard Wood Soldiers Sponsored by AUSA Chapter:
Staff Sgt. Andrew Drennan
Sgt. David Gerasch
Sgt. Catherine Hammelman
Spc. William Hart
Sgt. Joshua Jennings
Staff Sgt. Christopher Lafser
Sgt. Robert Mahaffey
Staff Sgt. Jacob Miller
Staff Sgt. (Drill Sgt. of the Year winner) Jonathan Miller
Sgt. Travis Moore
Sgt. Travis Poole
Sgt. Joshua Roberts
Staff Sgt. Jo Schaus
Staff Sgt. Chaise Turner
Spc. John Varnadore
Staff Sgt. Joshua Williams