(This story is written by Missourinet news director Brian Hauswirth and by reporter Gary Knehans at Missourinet Waynesville affiliate KJPW Radio)

Missouri’s senior senator says building a new hospital at Fort Leonard Wood and enhancing airline service to the post are vital to the Fort’s long-term sustainability.

Missouri U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D)
Photo courtesy of clairemccaskill.com

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), a senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke at a recent town meeting in Pulaski County’s St. Robert.

“I’m really thrilled that we’ve been able to get the authorization for the hospital, almost $300 million,” McCaskill says. “That is critical to this area. It’s critical to the mission of the Fort, but it’s also critical to St. Robert and Waynesville and all of Pulaski County and the entire region.”

McCaskill tells Missourinet Waynesville affiliate KJPW Radio (AM 1390) that she’s working with other lawmakers and stakeholders to attract more training missions to Fort Leonard Wood.

The Fort’s website says Fort Leonard Wood trains about 80,000 military and civilians annually, and also supports a colonel-commanded Marine Corps Detachment and an Air Force Detachment.

While Senator McCaskill is optimistic about building a new hospital at Fort Leonard Wood, she tells KJPW that things are not as rosy when it comes to airport improvements and airline service upgrades.

“We’ve got to be very worried about what’s going on with the airport (Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport),” says McCaskill. “If we look at BRAC down the road, air service is really important in the considerations on BRAC. So we’ve got to keep that airport functioning. Right now the airport gets $3 million a year in federal funding. President Trump has cut that out of his budget entirely.”

McCaskill is referring to the federal Essential Air Services program, which supports rural airports.

Waynesville-St. Robert Regional Airport, which is also called Forney Field, is used by the military and the public.

BRAC stands for Base Realignment and Closure. It is the congressionally-authorized process that the Defense Department has used to reorganize its base structure.