Kansas City District News Stories

Fort Leonard Wood Hospital Replacement Project marks a big milestone with “Topping Out” ceremony

Kansas City District
Published Dec. 9, 2021
Northwestern Division Commander Col. Geoff Van Epps and Kansas City District Commander Col. Travis Rayfield sign the last piece of structural steel for the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project before a Topping Out Ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021.

Northwestern Division Commander Col. Geoff Van Epps and Kansas City District Commander Col. Travis Rayfield sign the last piece of structural steel for the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project before a Topping Out Ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021.

A tribute to the attack on Pearl Harbor was written on the final piece of structural steel for the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project during a Topping Out Ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021. The ceremony was held on the same day as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

A tribute to the attack on Pearl Harbor was written on the final piece of structural steel for the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project during a Topping Out Ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021. The ceremony was held on the same day as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

A tree is illuminated on top of the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project to represent the placement of the final piece of structural steel and partnerships during a Topping Out Ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021.

A tree is illuminated on top of the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project to represent the placement of the final piece of structural steel and partnerships during a Topping Out Ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021.

Personnel from the Department of Defense, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, JE Dunn Construction, RLF Architecture and Fort Leonard Wood gather to recognize the placement of the final piece of structural steel on the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project during a Topping Out Ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021.

Personnel from the Department of Defense, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, JE Dunn Construction, RLF Architecture and Fort Leonard Wood gather to recognize the placement of the final piece of structural steel on the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project during a Topping Out Ceremony at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021.

Fort Leonard Wood Resident Engineer Austin Johnson briefs Northwestern Division Commander Col. Geoff Van Epps during his visit to the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021.

Fort Leonard Wood Resident Engineer Austin Johnson briefs Northwestern Division Commander Col. Geoff Van Epps during his visit to the General Leonard Wood Community Hospital Project at Fort Leonard Wood on Dec. 7, 2021.

On a chilly day in south central Missouri, dignitaries from around the state of Missouri and beyond gathered to celebrate the completion of the steel erection for the replacement hospital project.

Leading off the speakers was Gregg Thompson, Deputy to the Commanding General, U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Senior Executive Service. “Fort Leonard Wood trains nearly 80,000 uniformed service members and civilians each year and having a treatment center like this one on post is essential to maintaining and improving the work and social lives of our people and readiness.”

Thompson recognized local, state and federal officials who have supported the project, sought and obtained the funding and continue to support the service members, families and veterans who will be served by the new facility when fully operational in 2025. 

Leaders from Fort Leonard Wood and the national, regional and state representatives present, signed the “last beam” which will be installed in its place atop the structure after the event for safety purposes. The construction team lighted an evergreen tree on the top of the structure during the ceremony to represent that milestone in the construction of the building. This “topping out” signals the move ahead to further construction progress on the hospital.

On the Department of Defense level, the Defense Health Agency has championed modernizing and updating facilities with state-of-the-art facilities like this one being built.

Speaking to the skilled tradesmen building the facility, “What you are building here is more than steel, concrete, pipe and wires. It’s a commitment of the United States to continue to provide world-class health care to those who go in harms way, for those who stay behind and for those who have completed their service. This is the legacy you are building today – thank you!” said U.S. Navy Capt. Mark Lieb, chief of Facilities Enterprise, Defense Health Agency.

“We are seeing the culmination of thousands of hours of planning, design and construction which is kind of amazing to see,” referring to the visage of the current hospital to one side and the new hospital rising behind him, said Army Col. Christopher Drum, commander, U.S. Army Health Planning Agency. He recognized the strong culture of safety that has been created and urged all involved to stay vigilant as colder weather brings more safety challenges.

“This is for the soldiers, sailors, Marines, guardians and family members at Fort Leonard Wood, represented today by leadership from the Maneuver Support Center and the great professionals that will provide the medical care represented by the Defense Health Agency,” said Col. Travis Rayfield, commander of the Kansas City District, which has the responsibility for contract and construction oversight. Rayfield remembered having ankle surgery in the 2000’s in the current facility and lauded the assembled group for the technical improvements in the new facility for our future service members, their families and veterans.

From our regional U.S. Army Corps of Engineers commander, Col. Geoff Van Epps, Northwestern Division, who commands five USACE districts that span 14 states and cover almost one quarter of the land mass of the continental United States, noted the focus on safety, collaboration and partnership.

“At this point, this project is the gold standard for partnering across the Department of Defense,” speaking of the teamwork between the contractors, the Kansas City District, the garrison command, the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and the Defense Health Agency and others.

Representatives from the prime contractor, JE Dunn Construction and their designer of record, RLF Architects also commented on the need for the facility and the positive steps being taken as the project moves toward completion of construction in 2024 and to be fully operational in 2025.

“We here celebrating that our workers are doing this work safely,” referring to creating a culture of safety that ensures they look out for each other and don’t take any shortcuts, said Paul Neidlein, President, Midwest Region, JE Dunn Construction.. He thanked several local companies for helping overcome logistical and supply issues as good Missouri partners.

“This is one of the best teams we have ever had the chance to work with,” said Scott Fote, Senior Vice President for RLF Architects. He thanked the entire team for ensuring success for the community focused project. He reminded the group to take the time to enjoy their family and friends during the holiday season.

All of speakers and several additional leaders came to the last beam and ceremonially signed it. The beam will be installed on the structure and thus will contain the names of the leaders and workers who have made the project proceed toward success – to a brand-new General Leonard Wood Community Hospital.

Hospitals present complex design and construction challenges. Leaders for the project considered many lessons learned from other government and private sector hospital construction projects and decided to use Collaborative Analytics as a part of their life cycle partnering process. This process allows team members from all levels to voice concerns related to collaboration, communication and other teamwork attributes resulting in addressing issues earlier in the design and construction. This helps to monitor the overall health/collaboration of the team and promotes a sense of camaraderie that permeates the project leading to results all have agreed upon.

Moving forward, much of the flooring for the five-level building and the outside concrete precast panels will continue. The team will continue to emphasize safety, collaboration and partnership.