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Group's message: Cuts at Fort Polk would hurt state, Army's effort to train troops

Published: Mar. 4, 2015 at 12:11 AM CST|Updated: May. 2, 2015 at 7:12 PM CDT
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LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - A large crowd showed up Tuesday night for one of three listening sessions to oppose proposed cuts at Fort Polk.

Fort Polk is facing up to 6,500 cuts as the U.S. Army tightens its budget and looks to cut 20,000 troops by the end of 2015.

"It will have a significant impact. We think not only in central Louisiana, but across the state," said COL Lee Walters, Chief of Staff, Fort Polk.

Tuesday night's meeting at Lake Charles Civic Center is one of three sessions going on simultaneously in Alexandria and Leesville.

The sessions were hosted by the citizens action group "Fort Polk Progress."

The group heard from leaders and officials via feed from the other sessions while several state, city and parish leaders spoke at the Lake Charles meeting.

"A strong military has got to have a strong community that supports it. It's got to be housed in a community that supports the men and women of the military and their families. And that's what I think we can match better than anybody better in the country," said Mayor Randy Roach, Lake Charles.

Fort Polk generates 1.75-billion dollars in economic impact every year. It's by far the largest employer in the state of Louisiana.

"We as a state have put a lot of money into infrastructure at Fort Polk, in terms of roads and sewer projects over the past few years... and we want to continue to do that," said Sen. Ronnie Johns, (R) Louisiana.

"This is a long term commitment. We've proven that since Fort Polk has been here. Fort Polk is good for Louisiana, but Louisiana is good for Fort Polk," said Rep. Chuck Kleckley, (R) Speaker of the House.

The message they are trying to get across to the top officials at Pentagon? Any cuts would have a drastic impact on economy in Louisiana and Army's effort to train troops.

Fort Polk's Joint Readiness Training Center is responsible for training thousands of American troops in real-life battlefield scenarios.

"Afghanistan is still an issue. Iraq is becoming an issue. You have ISIS. There are plenty of threats out there that demand an army that needs to be ready to fight," said COL Walters.

Similar sessions will be held across the country until the end of March. After that, recommendations will be made to top Army officials on what cuts should be made.

The timeline for a final decision is late summer or early fall.

KPLC's Lee Peck will have more on later editions.

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