FORT POLK, LA (KPLC) - With the U.S. Army considering more troop reductions, the citizen action group Fort Polk Progress is doing what it can to convince the Army otherwise.
The U.S. Army announced it is cutting troop levels from 490,000 to 450,000 in June 2015. The Army is proposing reducing troop levels up to 6,500 at Fort Polk, more than 70 percent of current troops.
The citizens action group Fort Polk Progress is efforting a letter writing campaign from supporters. It's part of the 60-day comment period.
"We are educating partners across the state and throughout this region and on into East Texas of the potential impacts of those drawdowns. We are trying to get people to understand how it could impact them and thereby get them to step up and do what they can to make their public comment. This really is their last chance before the Army makes the decision," said Mike Reese, Fort Polk Progress.
Fort Polk has an annual $1.7 billion impact on the state. Any dramatic cuts would have far reaching impact.
"The economic impact from Fort Polk to our region of the state is huge. As far as money spent by the soldiers and families stationed at Fort Polk. When you take into account a major cut that has been discussed, it's not only going to impact businesses here, but also the state," said Kirk Pellerin, President/CEO Vernon Bank.
Small business owners outside the gates of Fort Polk would likely have to shut down from the loss of business.
"The businesses along Entrance Road depend in Fort Polk. Fifty to seventy-five percent of our business is from the soldiers. We are heavily supported by them. Any major cuts would be devastating," said Chris Carter, The Edge Barber Shop. "I would probably have to close and relocate my business."
Carter plans to draft his own letter of support. Reese said it's crucial everyone speak up during this period because the cuts could go even deeper from 450,000 to 420,000 troops. Reese said the public comments gathered now would be used during that process.
"This really is the public's last opportunity to speak out. This is your last chance. We need as many people as possible to take the time and let their voices be heard. Please let yourself be counted in this process," said Reese.
Last time Fort Polk was faced with cuts in 2012, a similar letter writing campaign was successful. Reese said of the 8,000 letters sent from bases across the country, more than 4,300 were from Fort Polk. The proposed cuts were 5,300 troops. After assessing the economic impact, the Army reduced levels by only 250.
The comment period ends August 25. Other areas around the state, including Lake Charles, have joined the effort to save Fort Polk from cuts and plan to hold events where residents can sign up to help.