FORT POLK, La. — When spring comes to the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, it often brings with it inclement weather in the form of thunderstorms or tornadoes.
During April and early May of this year, three tornadoes passed within 5 miles of the installation.
To mitigate such events, the JRTC and Fort Polk held a tabletop exercise testing the ability of the Warrior Operations Center, Crisis Action Team and organizations throughout the installation to react and provide recovery efforts in the event such a calamitous event were to occur within its boundaries.
Additionally, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the TTX was conducted in Fort Polk’s Bayou Theater with strict social distancing and the wearing of facemasks to protect participants.
Col. Ryan K. Roseberry, Fort Polk garrison commander, highlighted the importance of “practicing” potential threats — whether man-made or weather related — that might occur on the installation.
“Last year we conducted an exercise in which we had to respond to a downed aircraft,” Roseberry said. “A few weeks later it actually happened, and because of the exercise we were able to respond correctly.”
Roseberry said Louisiana’s year round weather make these types of exercises especially important.
“At Fort Polk, severe weather could hit at any time,” he said. “That’s why we need to be prepared.”
Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank, commander, JRTC and Fort Polk, compared preparation for severe weather to the installation’s response to COVID-19.
“We’ve worked a lot these past few weeks to protect the community from COVID-19,” he said. “We must provide the same protection to our Soldiers and Families in the event of severe weather.”
Frank said exercises that practice the installation’s response to events such as tornadoes or COVID-19 are critical to the confidence level residents have in leaderships’ abilities.
“Our residents have confidence in this team,” he said. “If we have a tornado strike, we have a physical battle drill that gives us assurance in our ability to respond successfully. In the face of severe damage, how do we instill that same confidence to our installation Family? By being well trained in our response. And today we’re going to test our ability to respond to a catastrophic weather event.”
The TTX called for a tornado to strike a housing area and child development center on Fort Polk at 8:15 a.m. on a Tuesday.
Mark Leslie, chief, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, called on representatives from each directorate and organization on the installation to explain their responses and brainstorm ways those responses could be improved.