Fort Leonard Wood Provides Blueprint for BRAC Realignments
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo., Jun. 17, 2005 For a look at what's ahead following the next round of base realignments, you'll find few better examples than the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center here in the Ozarks.
Formed after the 1995 round of base realignment and closures, MANSCEN, as it's called here, brings together three combat support centers and schools at one location. The Army's Military Police and Chemical centers and schools, both previously based at the since-closed Fort McClellan, Ala., moved here in 1999 to join the U.S. Army Engineer Center and School.
The three schools now have their headquarters in wings fanning out of the sprawling William M. Hoge Hall.
It's the same concept the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure recommendations propose, moving the Army's Armor School from Fort Knox, Ky., to join the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., as part of a new Army Maneuver Center there.
BRAC 2005 plans also call for moving the Army's Air Defense Artillery School to Fort Sill, Okla., to join the Field Artillery School as a new Army Fires Center.
The Defense Department also proposes creation of a Combat Service Support Center at Fort Lee, Va. That center would consolidate the Army Ordnance School, now at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; the Army Transportation School at Fort Eustis, Va.; and the Army Quartermaster School at Fort Lee.
"The model for those centers was Fort Leonard Wood and the successes we've experienced here," said Army Col. J.C. Abney, the post's garrison commander.
Consolidating the schools at one post cut out redundancies in the separate garrisons and staffs that supported them, Abney said. It also freed up 687 military positions for other missions.
But there's an even more compelling argument than increased efficiency for consolidations like those proposed by BRAC 2005, Abney said. Collocating the schools and centers for functionally related branches enhances their training, and ultimately, their ability to work together in a wartime environment.
"It creates a synergy that's just not possible when they're at separate locations," Abney said.
Training exercises bring together students from the Engineer, Military Police and Chemical schools, who work together as they would in combat. Combat developers, who focus on future strategy, force structure, doctrine and equipment for their specific branches, coordinate their efforts. Cadres from the three schools share the common elements in their curriculum.
"If you train in the same environment and do your combat development in the same environment, it translates to a much better, cohesive working environment between the different branches on the battlefield," Abney said.
"And ultimately, everything we do comes together on the battlefield," he said. "So if the different branches have an understanding of each other's mission and roles, it promotes better coordination for the future."
"Nothing we do is in a vacuum," agreed Army Col. Don Bailey, commander of the 3rd Chemical Brigade at the U.S. Army Chemical School here. "We have to collaborate because our missions are so intermingled, and being together at one location enhances that collaboration."
Army Lt. Col. Paul Grosskruger, chief of staff for the Army Engineer School, said sharing facilities and support minimizes bureaucracy so everyone can focus on their missions.
While emphasizing that each branch must continue to train its members in branch- and proponent-specific skills, he said doing so in a collaborative environment increases understanding of how each branch does and how it contributes to the overall mission.
"Modern warfare is combined-arms warfare, so when you have the ability to collaborate in training, it's a big plus," Grosskruger said.
"The bottom line is, here at MANSCEN, we're not interested in what (branch insignia) is on our collars," he said. "What we're interested in is the effect."