FORT POLK, La. — FORT POLK, La. — Civic and governmental leaders from west central Louisiana gathered at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk June 24 to learn the state of JRTC and Fort Polk and get a glimpse of what is planned in the future for the sprawling installation.

Brig. Gen. David Doyle, commanding general, JRTC and Fort Polk, began the event by introducing the tenant units on the JRTC and Fort Polk and their many unique roles. He also explained how the Soldier population on the installation swells or decreases based on rotations.

He then spoke about how JRTC and Fort Polk has a history of training Soldiers for combat throughout the world, from World War II to today’s Afghanistan and Iraq battles.

He told those gathered that Fort Polk’s No. 1 priority was “People First” and the importance of dialogue between civic and installation leaders. He then pointed out that Army leaders have said the JRTC and Fort Polk will remain a “vibrant location” for the Army.

“We’re open for business,” he said.

Doyle stressed the importance of “consistent partnerships” between Fort Polk and area communities, including political entities and schools. To that end, he said JRTC and Fort Polk will continue to invite the surrounding communities to installation activities such as the Dye Hard Color run, 5K Warrior Swamp Run, Amazing Race, Snowflake Festival, Freedom Fest, Movie Nights and the Louisiana Hayride.

Doyle addressed Quality of Life efforts on Fort Polk, including improvements to housing, barracks, water systems and roads, as well as the addition of a new car and pet wash, lighted walking trails, renovated bowling alley, basketball courts and 50-meter pool.

“We have 12 major Quality of Life projects this year, and 24 more during the next two years,” he said. “It’s all because we want to take care of our Soldiers and Families.

Following Doyle’s briefing, the visitors visited static displays highlighting units on post, toured the barracks under renovation and enjoyed lunch at the Patriot Inn Restaurant.

Leesville Mayor Rick Allen said in his role as mayor and chairman of Fort Polk Progress, it is important to know what Doyle’s priorities are.

“Those priorities often change when leadership changes,” Allen said. “We need to understand what his priorities are so we know what our priorities are. We’ll get more done together than we will separate. It’s important we have these kind of events so we can make sure we’re pulling the wagon the same way.”

Allen said Doyle’s briefing eased some of his concerns.

“I was concerned about rotations in the future, and according to the slide the CG showed us today, we’re going to maintain a level that I feel like we can deal with,” he said.

Allen stressed the importance of the JRTC and Fort Polk to the local economy.

“We’re conducting another economic impact study to update the one we currently have,” he said. “Our last economic impact study (showed Fort Polk’s impact) was $1.4 billion. We expect that number has increased. It’s important we know exactly what that number is.”

That updated study is needed to make sure Louisiana’s political leadership understands Fort Polk’s importance to Vernon Parish and the surrounding area and they continue to fund projects like the annexation of Fort Polk’s Entrance Road into the City of Leesville, said Allen.

“The infrastructure on that road is important to the Soldiers at Fort Polk and it’s crucial for us to be able to get more businesses on Entrance Road to serve those Soldiers,” Allen said.

Logan Morris, CEO of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, said it’s important to strengthen the relationship between the local community and the installation.

“Leesville and Vernon Parish are home to the best hometown in the Army,” he said. “It’s important to those of us who are talking to our Congressional delegation to see first-hand the importance of the mission of Fort Polk.”

Morris said he was encouraged by Doyle’s remarks.

“After listening to General Doyle, the future of Fort Polk seems very bright,” he said. “We’ve got an excellent leadership team, both at Fort Polk and in the community. I believe it’s a dream team right now and everything looks great for Fort Polk.”

Gaston Coco, director of Business Development for Longleaf Hospital, said events such as the State of JRTC and Fort Polk are important.

“I like these events because it allows me to see the faces of those who are defending this country, and by getting out here, it gives them a face to see also,” he said. “I thought what General Doyle had to say was great and encouraging. He wants to hear from us and hear our ideas.”

Following the event, Doyle said it’s important to maintain close relationships with community partners. “Today was an opportunity to provide our community leaders with an update on JRTC and Fort Polk, interact with Soldiers and strengthen our community partnerships,” he said. “We’re proud to be a part of this community and strive to be good neighbors.”