By Angie Thorne, Guardian staff writerFebruary 13, 2009
Whether building homes or lines of communication, a foundation of cooperation and knowledge is needed. Building the foundation of a strong home is something Picerne Military Housing knows a thing or two about, and constructing an atmosphere of cooperation and teamwork is something Fort Polk, Picerne and the surrounding communities have learned to create through hard work. Their knowledge of building not just houses, but also communities, was conveyed to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal Feb. 9.
Jindal met with Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk officials to discuss Fort Polk's progress and future endeavors, and then traveled to the Palmetto Terrace Neighborhood to meet with Mary Ann Clary, communications manager for Picerne Military Housing, to tour the Palmetto Neighborhood Center and Picerne neighborhood model home. The tour showcased the Army's privatized housing initiatives and improved living conditions at Fort Polk.
Clary said she thought it was the first time that the governor had seen the homes going up at Fort Polk. She said she was pleased with the tour. "One of the things that impressed me the most was that the governor was so engaged. He asked me and General Yarbrough several questions," said Clary.
Jindal said what really made an impact on him were the cornerstones of communication, cooperation and teamwork he found. "What has impressed me the most is the partnership between the military and the local communities. It's very impressive when you've got Fort Polk leadership, the mayor (Leesville), the legislative delegation, the police jury and the chamber all sitting together. We're not all going to agree and that's OK, but the great thing is we're talking to each other whether it's about La. Hwy 28, school issues or water infrastructure."
Jindal recalled a time when Fort Polk's housing wasn't what it is today. "I remember being on post before and seeing outdated housing. There were problems with mold, low ceilings, outdated facilities and Soldier morale. That's not the type of housing we should be providing the brave men and women that serve us," he said.
Jindal's tour of Picerne's model home was an example of some of the changes occurring on the installation. "What we just toured is world class. I want to applaud the military for their public/private partnership that has allowed them to build much better quality housing. They (the military) do so much for us, that's the least we can do for the men and women that serve us. So, I'm very proud to see these investments. It's not just investments in facilities, it is investments in people that this nation is making," said Jindal.
Jindal explained that Louisiana has made a commitment to the military because of its important presence in the state. He said that you could see that commitment to the military through state investments made in La. Hwy 28, La. Hwy 171 and the joint naval base in southeast Louisiana. "These are just the first of many investments we are going to continue to make to help support the military because they do such a great job defending our nation," said Jindal.
The governor said it is important to remember the military's economic impact on Louisiana. "That is an absolutely critical investment. We want to continue to see them grow their presence right here in Louisiana," said Jindal.
Jindal summed up his visit: "We want to make this the installation of choice for the military. When a Soldier hears that they are coming to Fort Polk, I want them to be excited to come to Louisiana. I want them to know not only does this post have a great history going back decades, but it also has a great future."