FORT POLK, La. — In accordance with guidance from Department of the Army leadership and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk will perform a phased de-escalation of restrictions in regards to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
As restrictions are lifted, the JRTC and Fort Polk team will continue to operate in a social-distancing enabled environment until mitigation is no longer required. Force protection measures across the installation, to include restrictions at access control points and travel limitations, will likely mirror the posture of Vernon Parish and the state.
Beginning Monday, the following training adjustments will take place in accordance with installation, state and federal guidelines for Phase 1, Monday through June 4:
• Gyms will reopen for military personnel from 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
• Team, squad and section physical training and maintenance will resume instead of the current individual training.
• Ranges will reopen with priority given to rotational units, deploying units and major support commands.
• The Berry Mission Training Center and Training Support Center will open with social distancing guidelines.
• Airborne operations, aviation operations, unmanned aerial system flying and rigger training is authorized.
• JRTC Rotation 20-08, 4th Security Force Assistance Brigade; Tactical Combat Casualty Care training; leader/follower training; 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division preparations to support the United States Military Academy; and leadership barracks inspections will take place.
In preparation for JRTC Rotation 20-08, the following measures on North Fort Polk will be followed:
• Access control point 7 is closed to the public beginning May 26 and open for commercial traffic only.
• ACP 6 is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week beginning at 6 a.m. May 20.
• Traffic control points or roadblocks will be set up to provide a “safety bubble” around North Fort Polk.
• AAFES shops and food services on North Fort Polk will be closed.
• Rotational preposition fleet, line haul, MILES installation and commodity shops will be relocated.
• A medical screening area will be set up off site.
Keith Morrow, JRTC and Fort Polk G-3 air officer, said since jump training was shut down due to the restrictions of the COVID-19, it affected some of the installation’s parachutists.
“Some of our paratroopers and jumpmasters have not been able to jump or perform their duties for more than 60 days,” Morrow said. “To retain their status, both as paratroopers and jumpmasters, they needed refresher training.”
To provide the necessary training, Morrow said a three-week training program was developed.
“During the first week, May 11 through 13, 16 jumpmasters trained on their duties both inside and outside of the aircraft,” Morrow said.
During the second week, scheduled for Monday through Thursday, basic refresher training will be provided for those paratroopers affected by the shut down.
“The jumpmasters who just completed their refresher training will each take 10 jumpers and conduct basic refresher training,” Morrow said.
“Once all the jumpers have passed the BAR training they are ready to conduct a airborne operation with their unit.”
The final week of training is May 26-27, when the Soldiers will participate in an airborne operation at the JRTC and Fort Polk’s Geronimo Drop Zone.
“Each day there will be two C-130 aircraft from Little Rock Air Force Base,” Morrow said. “They will land on Geronimo Landing Zone, pick up the jumpers, and then drop them back onto Geronimo DZ.”
Morrow said that not only does the training get the JRTC and Fort Polk paratroopers recertified, it also helps Little Rock AFB.