FORT POLK, LA (KPLC) - If Southwest Louisiana were hit by chemical agents, would our military be prepared?
Each year, Fort Polk holds full-scale exercises to test how they, local, and state agencies would respond in emergency situations.
"We take real-world events that take place not only in military bases, but across the globe," says Colonel Jarrett Thomas II, the Garrison Commander at Fort Polk. "We learn from those events, put them in a scenario to make it as real as possible and we make decisions based on those events and make it more localized to our area."
The annual exercise isn't limited to just one topic; they have covered active shooter training, natural disasters, a train derailment, and more. This year they rehearsed responding to a biological agent.
To make the exercise more realistic, fake emails were sent out detailing a scenario in which two men would have on to Fort Polk property saying they were with pest control, but would have thrown aerosol canisters containing a biological agent before fleeing. The chemicals in the air would have begun affecting residents in the surrounding area.
Fort Polk set up several treatment facilities across the property and the Office of Public Health provided simulated medication. The on-base hospital also got involved.
Those who live outside of the base role-played as those infected with a biological agent.
Brigadier General Patrick D. Frank, JRTC and Fort Polk Commanding General, says that getting the community involved in the exercise helps prepare everyone in a worst-case scenario.
"When we bring in our civilian partners, that gives them the same level of training and interaction with this installation across each of the different incidents."
"This is an opportunity to get some lessons learned," Colonel Thomas II says. "Even with great organizations, there is always room to improve."
What is learned from today's exercise at Fort Polk will also be shared with other military bases around the United States in an effort to ensure that every base and the surrounding area remain as safe as possible.