FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- A tornado last New Year's Eve destroyed part of the housing here for military members and their families. The Army decided it wanted to exceed the challenge of just rebuilding by adding even more homes on the fort.
"If we were sitting here, that tornado would be coming right at us, and, if you look here, you can see the damage that it left behind," Fort Leonard Wood spokesman Jeff Maddy said on Thursday as he talked to reporters.
Remnants of the 40 damaged homes remain. Soldiers still remember when they got the call to help.
"Next thing I know, boss is calling me telling me we need to go clean debris out of the barracks," said soldier Andrew Uribe.
Uribe's wife, Valerie, also remembers the call that she got.
"'Over in Piney Hills, we've got houses that are down,' and I'm like, 'Are you kidding?'" she said.
The damage was serious, and the Army took seriously its job of rebuilding.
"When a challenge is put before you, great communities come together and not only meet the challenge but exceed the challenge, and that's what we really have done here," said Maj. Gen. David Quantock as he addressed a crowd at a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday.
The Army exceeded the challenge by 120 homes.
"We will begin the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of 160 new homes," said Dick Cole, project designer with Balfour Beatty Communities, the contractor building the homes.
"We began in 2008 to plan new family housing construction and then, during the process of planning, we had the destruction of 40 additional homes and we made the decision that we could build more homes at one time in one location."
This time, they're making sure, even if the homes aren't safe from a tornado, the soldiers will be.
"Once that happened, that became a catalyst to look at these homes that we're designing and say, 'We better plan for this event again,'" said Cole.
When the tornado hit, the Army decided it wanted its soldiers to have a safe place to go in case one ever strikes again, so it decided all the new homes will be built with a tornado shelter.
"Within the interior downstairs bathroom, every new home will have a tornado shelter," said Cole.
The first of the homes should be completed by July 2012. They hope to have them all done by March 2013.