By Chuck Cannon, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerMarch 9, 2009
As this is the Army's Year of the NCO, it was only fitting that Fort Polk christened its new Battle Command Training Center in honor of a former command sergeant major who was respected and admired by those he served with for 35 years.
The new $30 million facility was named for Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Tom Berry. Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commander Brig. Gen. James Yarbrough said Berry, who died in 2005, spent his life committed to the Soldiers under his guidance.
"This building was created to help train, maintain and enhance a Soldier's individual battle command skills," Yarbrough told a standing-room only crowd of Berry's friends, Family and fellow Soldiers. "Command Sergeant Major Berry spent a lifetime doing just that through his 35 years of military service - nine years of which were spent in Vietnam."
The BCTC will train Soldiers to go to war - as did Berry, Yarbrough said.
"Can you imagine the lives he (Berry) saved, the missions he accomplished through his standard of leading by example with encouragement, correction when needed and strength'" Yarbrough said. "The importance of the training that will be conducted at this facility is matched only by the importance of Command Sergeant Major Berry's life-work as a trainer."
Yarbrough related several anecdotes about Berry's popularity and leadership skills that were shared with him by the veteran Soldier's friends and coworkers.
"A Soldier's success can be measured in what he or she leaves behind - the lives touched, the lessons taught, the good memories made and the love that is felt by Family and friends," Yarbrough said. "Command Sergeant Major Berry has left us all richer, and in my book, that's as successful as you can get in this lifetime."
Berry was a highly decorated and distinguished senior noncommissioned officer who retired to Leesville in 1992. He earned numerous awards and recognition during his career, including the Bronze Star Medal for Valor while serving in Vietnam.
Berry deployed from Okinawa with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the first Army unit deployed to Vietnam. His assignments included the Fort Polk NCO Academy command sergeant major; battalion and brigade command sergeant major in the 82nd Airborne Division, XVIII Airborne Corps; and the Southern Forces Command command sergeant major.
Upon his retirement and return to Leesville, Berry became involved in the community and worked as the assistant Role Play Branch Chief in Operations Group, JRTC.
Berry's son-in-law, Jay Young, spoke about his father-in-law's love for the military and its Soldiers.
"He would say this honor was undeserved, but greatly appreciated," Young said. "First, to be recognized by the Department of the Army and second, because my father-in-law woke up every day and loved serving his country. He never felt it was his job, but his duty."
Young said if Berry were here today, he wouldn't want to talk about his accomplishments.
"He would want to talk about the many men and women he served with during his career," Young said. "He was selfless and always willing to give of himself to others."
The BCTC will enhance Fort Polk's ability to train and maintain individual battle command skills, develop integrated and collective battle command skills and maintain operational readiness.
The facility contains 13 classrooms and serves as a digital university for learning and sustaining battle command skills on the Army's battle command systems. An open bay contains an infantry brigade combat team's allocation of seven tactical operations centers and a fenced enclosure containing tactical operations center pad connections capable of supporting the TOC footprint of a brigade combat team. There is also a large, covered sand table available to support unit rehearsals and "rock drills," after action review theater and conference room.
The BCTC employs a suite of computers to simulate maneuver, fires, logistics, intelligence and air and sea support, and to stimulate Army battle command systems systems all designed and developed to meet specific unit training objectives or mission essential tasks.
Located in bldg 2675, Georgia Avenue, the BCTC is chartered to support the tactical units stationed on and around Fort Polk. It also supports active and Reserve components of the Army, Fort Polk garrison activities and federal, state and local government agencies.
"Today's event was five years in the making," Yarbrough said. "The construction of this digital university required the best efforts of Fort Polk personnel, the Army Corps of Engineers and a host of contractors. Through it all we've had one common and overriding goal: to better serve and train American Soldiers."