Making connections, whether physical or abstract, can be an important aspect of problem solving. Fort Polk, Louisiana, has achieved just such a connection through its long-standing relationship with the Louisiana National Guard. The Guard signed on for several engineering and construction jobs on and around Fort Polk. That association has led to a physical connection by way of two bridges to create access between post and the Castor Training Area.

Col. Bill Bartheld, senior National Guard advisor to Brig. Gen. James C. Yarbrough, commander, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, explained how the connection between the National Guard and Fort Polk came about.

"We put a team of National Guard Soldiers together and they have been working on this and several other projects on post. They come from all over the state to work on special duty orders and support the Joint Readiness Training Center. The Guard Bureau gave us some money to bring on support Soldiers at Ops Group and wherever they were needed," said Bartheld.

National Guardsman Lt. Josh Howell is the officer in charge of the Guardsmen doing the work. "We were tasked to build this bridge in the Castor Training Area. Our job is to make the training area accessible to Soldiers," said Howell.

Bartheld said this project is something that should have been done a long time ago. "Along with the garrison G-3, we saw the need to put in these bridges because they provide an avenue so that Soldiers don't have to go off post to get here," said Bartheld.

According to Howell, there have been delays while working on the bridge. "We are excited to get this far along because other missions and hurricanes (Gustav and Ike) have slowed us down. We built the forms for the first bridge before the hurricane came, so we had to put a halt on construction for a while, but now the first bridge is in place. We just have to put the decking on it," said Howell.

National Guardsman, Sgt. Chad Lisenby, 1022nd Engineer Company (Vertical), 527th Engineer Battalion, Monroe, La., has been working on this and other projects for about two months. "We've been doing dirt work, building and setting forms and getting the bridges ready to pour concrete."

The Guardsmen were scheduled to pour concrete at the second bridge on Oct. 28, but only in the form on the right side of the creek. They won't be able to reach the form on the left side until the first bridge is complete. "We placed about six yards of concrete into the wood forms," said Howell.

Howell is enthusiastic about the work his team is doing. "This is a good training experience and gives us a chance to be full-time Guardsmen. It's a good deal for the post because they reap the benefits of getting smaller projects done that maybe a contractor wouldn't want to come in here and tackle. This is a chance for Guardsman to show off what we can do," said Howell.

National Guardsman, Spc. Brandon Odom, 1020th Engineer Company (Vertical), 527th Engineer Battalion, Pineville, La., said he couldn't wait to see the bridges finished. "It feels good to do something that helps the Soldiers," said Odom.

Howell said the bridges are in the completion phase. "Barring any challenges, we should be finished in about two weeks," said Howell.

Other projects the Guardsmen have completed include work for Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation at Toledo Bend. "We cleared some woods, did some drainage and ditch work and spread 187 tons of sand on the beach," said Howell.
Once the bridges are finished, these Soldiers have even more projects to begin. "One of the next things we are going to do is clear 28 acres for a hideaway drop zone. It should take us a month and a half to two months to finish," said Howell.

According to Bartheld, no matter what project the Guardsmen work on next, they have built more than bridges and buildings. Through hard work and camaraderie they continue forgeing a successful connection to Fort Polk.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16