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Fort Leonard Wood


Fort Leonard Wood is an Army base located in the Missouri Ozarks in south-central Missouri. The installation was created in 1940 and named after Major General Leonard Wood in 1941. Currently, Fort Leonard Wood covers more than 61,000 acres. You will find the training facilities for Army Chemical, Engineer, and Military Police schools under the combined Maneuver Support Center (MANSCEN), as well as the 3rd Chemical Brigade where thousands of new recruits receive basic training every year. You’ll also find many marines, sailors, coast guardsmen, and international students from allied nations who receive training at the base.

An approximate population breakdown for Fort Leonard Wood:

  • 6,946 active duty
  • 12,183 family members
  • 3,825 DOA civilians
  • 5,702 other residents
  • 12,322 in training
  • 55,170 retirees/family members

Often joked as Fort “Lost In The Woods,” Fort Leonard Wood is located on a plateau within the Ozark Mountains somewhat in the middle of nowhere in Pulaski County. The pace of life is much slower without some of the amenities you’d expect to find in a major city (the closest Target is more than an hour’s drive away). St Louis is a 2-hour drive to the east, while Springfield, MO is a little over an hour’s drive to the west. The cost of living in Fort Leonard Wood is much lower than the rest of the United States, roughly 23.58% lower. Job growth is expected to increase over the next 10 years by 18.2% which is lower than the national average 33.5%.

Who was Major General Leonard Wood?

Leonard Wood was born in October of 1860 in Winchester, New Hampshire. He attended Harvard Medical School, then received his doctor of medicine via an internship in 1884 at Boston City Hospital. The following year he received an interim appointment with the Army as a contract surgeon, followed by an appointment as an assistant surgeon for the Army.

Wood fought in the First Nations Wars and received a medal of honor for his contributions during the Geronimo campaign. In 1890, he was promoted to captain, and 4 years later he would be made assistant attending surgeon in Washington D.C. This meant that he provided care for senior government officials, including the president. 1898 was a big year for Wood, as he was the commanding officer for the 1st Volunteer Cavalry called the Rough Riders. Later that year he was made a brigadier general due to his conduct during the battles of Las Guasimas and San Juan Hill, Cuba. After the war, he served as military governor of Cuba where he earned a notable reputation for establishing more modern judicial, police, and educational systems, as well as improving sanitation in the country. After the Spanish-American War, from 1903 to 1906, Wood was transferred to the Philippines and served as governor of the Moro Province. And later Major General Leonard Wood served as a special ambassador to Argentina, celebrating their centennial birthday, as well as commanded the Department of the East.

Wood served as Army Chief of Staff from 1910 to 1914. Wood had a large following, and was thought to be the next replacement for Theodore Roosevelt. He was an active candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1920. He eventually lost to Warren G. Harding on the 10th ballot. The following year, recognizing his experience and talent, Harding appointed Wood to Wood-Forbes mission in the Philippines. Wood held a position of appointed governor-general to the Philippines until he was forced to resign in 1927 due to terminal illness.

What’s It Like To Live At Fort Leonard Wood?

Seeing how Fort Leonard Wood has such a large population of active and retired military, you’ll feel the spirit of the Army when you arrive. Fort Leonard Wood trains over 82,000 soldiers and civilians each year, as well as the largest Air Force and Marine detachments on an Army base.

When you move to Fort Leonard Wood, depending on rank and availability, you or your family might have the option of living on-post, as well as off-post. There are 4 elementary schools on-post, but middle schoolers and high schoolers will have to attend the Waynesville School District if they intend to go to public school. On-post there are a variety of floor plans to choose from that are usually pet-friendly. Most of the on-post neighborhoods have community pools, playgrounds, and other amenities that make living at Fort Leonard Wood a family-friendly, welcoming place.

Off-post housing is usually plentiful and affordable. Within the Fort Leonard Wood limits there are 6 elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. There are also a few different towns and cities surrounding the area that have housing options available depending on how far you want to drive to get to the installation.

What’s the weather like?

When moving to a new state or city, sometimes simple things like the weather are a major consideration. If you are coming from the west coast, you might be used to consistently mild temperatures without a lot of extreme weather like tornadoes, ice and snowstorms, or extreme heat. Missouri is in the Midwest, and with it comes the Midwest weather. You’ll have 4 distinct seasons. Summer will definitely be sweltering hot (thank goodness for community pools and air conditioning). Spring often means tornado season, although some tornadoes show up in the fall these days. In winter, the temperature can drop into or below the 20s. There isn’t a ton of snow beyond the unexpected snow or ice storms, but wintry mix can happen which causes black ice (frozen water on the roads that looks wet, but is actually frozen, creating a slippery situation for vehicles). Missouri Department of Transportation, as well as the installation, do their best to keep residents informed of extreme weather.

What kind of amenities are there in a place fondly nicknamed Fort Lost In The Woods?

Just like most bases, you’ll find the commissary, post exchange, CDC options, as well as four gyms to use. The gyms each offer something unique. Some offer intramural sports for adults and kids. Some are more weightlifting focused. One is more family-friendly with an extensive list of classes offered. There are also a lot of community centers on-post that offer different activities.

Even though Fort Leonard Wood is in the middle of nowhere, it definitely provides a ton of amenities to keep everyone busy and happy. There is a library that offers different classes and storytimes for children. There is a recreation center that has mini-golf, go-karts, and pool. There is a bowling alley, a movie theater, golfing, hunting, archery, among other outdoor activities when the weather is nice. You’ll also find the Military Museum which is a popular attraction on-post. The museum has different artifacts from MP, Engineer and Chemical regiments. Fort Leonard Wood also has a facility called the Lake of the Ozarks Recreational Facility where you can go on a quick getaway by renting outdoor equipment and lodges.

Fort Leonard Wood is a great place to live. It’s family-friendly, full of quirky holiday celebrations, Civil War reenactments, as well as the art and culture associated with Old Route 66 where the Fort is settled on. There are caves and caverns all over the place that are waiting to be explored, as well as community activities that are frequently occurring on-post. Living here is definitely an experience if you aren’t used to living on a military base or if you aren’t used to life in the Midwest, but with some mental preparation and a willingness to dive into the community, living in Fort Leonard Wood might just be a lot of fun.

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