The Army presence at Fort Polk has been part of Southwest Louisiana for seventy years-- but local civic leaders now know it has a far greater effect on the economy than most realize.
It may look like war in Afghanistan but it's a carefully staged training exercise at the Army's Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk. It's through the tremendous attention to detail and realism that soldiers here learn how to react in a real combat situation.
Fort Polk is one of only two army combat training centers in the country-- the other is in California as Brigadier General Clarence KK Chinn explains. "One is the National Training Center at Barksdale in California and the other one is right here. You have to go through one of those before you go to combat because we're validating you to make sure that you're prepared. That's our mission: rigorous, relevant, realistic training."
He told business and community leaders of the SW La. Economic Development Alliance that Fort Polk contributes $1.6 billion dollars a year to the local economies. "We're the largest economic engine in Louisiana. And that's a message that we've got to get out. I know you all got it. That's why I'm here."
It's a message Chinn says they need to get out. One of their goals is to make Fort Polk the best hometown community in the army and for soldiers to return there when they re-enlist. "We want them to say they want to come back to Fort Polk and they want to come back to Fort Polk because of the great environment and the great community we have that supports their families while they're deployed and then when they're back here because of the things and activities that are available for them to do."
Government, business leaders and Army officials signed a covenant-- formalizing a promise to support Fort Polk and the JRTC. For more information on supporting the JRTC at Fort Polk and its soldiers.