FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 1, 2010) — An anonymous October e-mail to members of the Waynesville-St. Robert Chamber of Commerce warned that “The Communities of St. Robert and Waynesville are hurting.” Another anonymous email sent in November warned that “Our community is DYING!”
Maj. Gen. David Quantock denies reports that based on his MP background, he wants to reach out, grab soldiers, and keep them from leaving post.
Both emails make numerous claims that Fort Leonard Wood personnel are locking down trainees and barring soldiers from leaving post, thereby hurting local businesses. Sales tax revenues don’t support claims of a decline in local business, and at Tuesday night’s meeting of the Committee of Fifty, the post commander took the claims head-on and denied that they’re true.
Calling the emails a “sensitive subject,” Maj. Gen. David Quantock told the assembled local businessmen that as a military police general commanding what was historically an Army engineer post, his MP credentials have caused some eyebrows to rise.
“There is a lot of email traffic flying around the community about ‘You know, have you looked at Dave Quantock’s background? He’s a military policeman. Do you know what MPs do? They throw people in jail. You know what else he does? He works in corrections in Iraq and you know what he does? He keeps people in jail,’” Quantock said
That’s all true, but the conclusion some have drawn from those facts isn’t true at all, Quantock said.
Some, Quantock said, are saying that “what he’s probably done is he has banned all soldiers from (leaving) Fort Leonard Wood.”
After joking that he has ordered 33,000 orange jumpsuits to “purposely lock people on post,” Quantock said that “nothing can be further from the truth.”
So what’s the reality?
“What we want, and what I’ve assigned the garrison commander, is we want a community of excellence both on and off post. What makes people want to come to Fort Leonard Wood is not only quality of life on the post but also quality of life off-post,” Quantock said. “In many cases, the quality of life off-post is not equal, it is more important than quality of life on post. At the end of the day, the more businesses that you bring to the Fort Leonard Wood area community, it makes people want to come back … We are all about promoting our community, both on and off-post, and that is what will be as long as I am the CG here.”
Quantock said he understands that military personnel are the mainstay of the local economy, and said it makes no sense to bar soldiers from going off post.
“I am not barring anybody from going off the installation, I guarantee you. We want you to be just as successful as we are,” Quantock said. “We want them to get off, we want them to spend money. We want them to do those kinds of things to improve the community because the more they do that, the more businesses that come into the area which is good for everyone.”
Former Chamber of Commerce President Mike Dunbar, a local banker who was formerly a JAG attorney with the Army, told Quantock that he appreciated the direct rebuttal to the email claims.
“Thank you so much for your words and clearing up the email that most of us did not pay any attention to, anyway,” Dunbar said.
While Dunbar didn’t pay much attention to the claims, they have gained traction in certain parts of the Fort Leonard Wood community and have been discussed on area message boards.
So what’s the core of the complaint?
The Oct. 14 email claims that “over the past several months, the soldiers and trainees that our businesses need to remain open have not been allowed to come out into the community.” The lack of business caused by trainees not being given passes and soldiers supposedly being barred from leaving post, according to the writer, is hurting “hotels, restaurants, bars, barbers, clothing stores, other retailers and even, the churches.” According to the email, “the underlying problem is the lack of trainees that are being released into the community as was the practice in the past. Many of us depend on these weekends to make our payments and our payroll. Many other local businesses and people depend on us being successful.”
The unknown author wrote that “every business owner that I have spoken with is wondering what has happened over the past 2-3 months that has caused this abrupt change” and said in a Nov. 9 email that “I totally agree that there is probably no official order, it is confirmed that there is an effort to keep troops on base no matter what their level.”
Fort Leonard Wood personnel say there has been no change, either in the last two to three months or in the recent past. What is true, however, is that the policies of routine weekend passes for trainees in prior years has been changing since the 9/11 terrorist attack, with more and more attention focused on six-day training weeks that leave only limited time for passes.
That’s not a recent development, however.
Post spokesman Jeff Maddy said in October that the e-mail “is just another bad rumor” based on the fact that “the Army has changed its policy on IMT soldiers for basic, they are training six days a week. They are the majority of our on post training population, but were really never allowed off post anyway.”
“All other individuals here for training are free to exercise passes when granted,” Maddy said.
Responding to earlier reports discussed on the Pulaski County Web, Maddy said there’s no lockdown on Fort Leonard Wood and said similar discussions citing the Marine Corps Detachment are also wrong — no lockdown applies to any of the post’s units.
The unknown author warned on Nov. 9 that “the consequences of what is happening right now probably will not be visible to you until after February when the receipts from the 4th quarter sales tax returns start coming in. At this point, you will feel the full pain of what we are experiencing now! … If economic activity driven by the population of Fort Leonard Wood is not reintroduced, the difficulties you will experience will have to be confronted with great sacrifice.”
While that sales tax report obviously won’t be available for several months, local government officials say they’ve seen no signs of a sales tax decline and note that compared to most other cities in Missouri, the Fort Leonard Wood area continues to show sales tax revenue growth.
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