U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Donna Martin is the first woman to be in charge at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri’s Ozarks. She took the post in August. Martin, 53, is also only the third African American to hold the position in the installation’s 78-year history.
In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio’s Jonathan Ahl, Martin talked about a variety of issues including how she balances the responsibilities to the military and to the community that relies upon the base:
Maj. Gen. Donna Martin: I don’t find it difficult to prioritize my mission. My foremost priority will always be the training mission here at Fort Leonard Wood. Right alongside of that, we always have to keep our community members informed. And I do that in a variety of settings as well. I meet with our community partners quarterly. We talk about what’s going on at the base and in the community and how they complement each other. We have a great relationship with our outside communities. I see it as a mutual collaboration.
Jonathan Ahl: For people who live in the area, what do you think they will see happening at Fort Leonard Wood while you’re in charge that they would notice is different?
Martin: Probably the airport. Now we have a regional airline from Contour Air that flies two flights a day with 30 passenger jets. That’s probably the biggest change everyone will see. Not just our local community will see that but the rest of the Army. And that’s good not only for the community but for Fort Leonard Wood, because that brings more people here. We’re very proud of that.
Ahl: You’ve had a long and distinguished career in the military. How has military preparedness changed, and how is Fort Leonard Wood going to adapt to those changes?
Martin: Looking toward modernization, that role is absolutely essential to what we do here. We are actively engaged in how the Army is modernizing. So there is a direct link to the future and what is currently happening here.
Ahl: I know politics is something the armed forces tries to say out of as much as possible. To what extent do you feel the need to keep track of those things and keep a proactive role in that?
Martin: The Army is controlled by our civilian leadership. And so if there is a decision made, we are always in touch with our congressional leaders and our politicians. Do I feel a need to stay engaged with that? Absolutely. And they understand how important Fort Leonard Wood is to the region. So there is a huge collaborative effort that goes on with our political leaders. Nothing’s new with that.
Ahl: When I walked into your office, I couldn’t help but walk by the portraits of the previous commanders here and it’s mostly white men. You do not check either of those boxes. What does that mean to you?
Martin: What I think it really means is to a lot of females, young women in particular, that anything is possible. And that even though the Army may have a tradition of what it has looked like, there is always possibilities for the future. And so I hope that I give hope, and that when young women look at my picture in that row of distinguished gentleman, that they see that there is hope for anyone. And believe that as long as you work hard, you have a dream, and you can see the bigger picture, your picture can be on that wall.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
Follow Jonathan at @JonathanAhl
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