Fort Polk’s 46th Engineer Battalion deployed 153 Soldiers and 70 pieces of equipment Aug. 31 to southeastern Louisiana in support of recovery operations following Hurricane Ida’s devastation.

Soldiers from 687th Engineer Construction Company, 573rd Clearance Company, Forward Support Company and 46th Eng Bn staff joined Louisiana Army National Guard Soldiers and Seabees from the Naval Construction Battalion in Gulfport, Mississippi. The 46th Engineer Soldiers were the first active-Army unit deployed in the recovery effort.

They redeployed to Fort Polk on Sept. 20.

Maj. Maria Carver Frishman, 46 Eng Bn, said operations spanned a 3,170 square mile area and covered three Louisiana Parishes: Terrebonne, Lafourche and Jefferson. She said the battalion was tasked with conducting debris clearance in support of Northern Command and Joint Task Force-Louisiana, working in coordination with the Louisiana National Guard and other supporting Title-10 Units.

“Missions included route clearance on Grand Isle, Louisiana, levee clearance in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, and canal clearance in Terrebonne Parish,” she said. “In total, the battalion cleared 78 miles and removed 20,602 cubic yards (2,085 dump truck loads) of debris.”

Frishman said sustainment was limited during the first week of operations.

“The battalion’s base of operations was established at the Fletcher Technical Community College parking lot, running off of internal power generation and supported by MREs, water and fuel deployed from Fort Polk,” she said. “Within a week, sustainment networks were established for all classes of supply. Additionally, the

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Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office established a life support camp with sleeping areas, showers, hot chow and laundry services, and invited the battalion’s Soldiers to bivouac at their camp.”

Frishman said area residents were quick to show their appreciation for the work done by the 46th Eng Bn Soldiers

“The people of southeastern Louisiana were extremely welcoming and grateful for our work,” she said. “Soldiers were greeted with ‘thank you,’ honks, waves and a lot of good food. The Fletcher Technical Community College and the Grand Isle community showed their appreciation with a catered farewell dinner on one of our last evenings.”

Upon the Soldiers’ return, they went through a COVID-19 protocol said Capt. Sara Hoyt, S-3, 46th Eng Bn Current Ops Officer.

“We’re testing everyone, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated,” she said. “When we get the results, the unvaccinated Soldiers who test positive will be isolated.”

She said unvaccinated Soldiers who test negative would be placed on quarantine and vaccinated Soldiers who test negative would be returned to duty.

“As of now, we have a COVID rodeo scheduled for September 28 for all unvaccinated Soldiers in the battalion,” she said.

Pvt. Madison Vallecillo, 573rd CC, has only been at Fort Polk four months.

“We were clearing levees and cutting down trees,” she said. “It was the first time I was able to use my MOS training.”

Vallecillo said the deployment was not what she expected.

“But it was a great experience and I learned a lot about our equipment,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting to use a chain saw; didn’t know I’d have that opportunity. I have more confidence in my ability now.”

Staff Sgt. Leonard Love, 687th, said local residents constantly supported the work done by the Soldiers.

“The residents brought us water and Gatorade,” he said. “They would stop us on the road to make sure we had what we needed.”

Carver said morale remained high during the deployment and the battalion’s Soldiers were proud of the work they completed.

“Our Soldiers were eager to deploy and put their training to use in support of a ‘real world’ mission,” she said. “A true sense of accomplishment is felt across the entire battalion.”