FORT POLK, La. — Understanding the procedures and protocols when asking for help from the U.S. Army is an essential form of communication in an emergency and can be the key to saving lives.
That open communication between Fort Polk and its parish and state partners was the focus of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Medical Evacuation Conference held March 3 at Fort Polk’s Berry Mission Training Complex.
JRTC and Fort Polk command and leaders from the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital, Directorate of Emergency Services, 1st Battalion, 5th Aviation Regiment — Cajun Dustoff, Judge Advocate General and others attended the event, along with representatives from state and local emergency agencies.
Off-post agencies were briefed about current Army regulations centering on cooperation between Fort Polk and its state and local counterparts.
Mark Leslie, interim deputy garrison commander, said the event established a dialogue and enhanced understanding that Fort Polk assistance must be requested within the legalities, obligations and policies of the Army. He encouraged those in attendance to ask questions and relay ideas.
“We aren’t going to be talking the entire time. We want this to be a dialogue on everything from MEDEVAC situations to emergency management,” he said.
Brig. Gen. David S. Doyle, JRTC and Fort Polk commanding general, said the conference prioritized a collective understanding among participants.
“These discussions we have about how we do business when lives are at risk are essential. We don’t want to pick things up on the fly. We want to already have a degree of confidence that we all understand and execute what we agree to in an emergency situation,” he said.
Doyle said taking the information from this conference and using it is something Byrd Regional Hospital has done well in the past.
“They made the last MEDEVAC request that we authorized,” he said.
Jeremy Lambright, Byrd Hospital emergency room director, said the MEDEVAC conference was a great opportunity to develop working relationships that are important when an emergency occurs.
“This is an opportunity to get to know those people (at Fort Polk and beyond) on a personal basis and better help them understand what we can offer, as well as what we can depend on when an emergency strikes. We are fortunate to have that access and opportunity to give and receive help when it’s needed,” he said.
Paul Fuselier, Director of Business Development for Acadian Ambulance, said the conference was the perfect way for civilian agencies to understand how things work at Fort Polk.
“That kind of information strengthens our relationship and makes clear the assets we both have. You can’t have enough communication and training when it comes to emergency situations,” he said.
Jennifer Huntley, Vernon Parish 911 supervisor, said she believes the conference is just one way to keep communication open between Fort Polk and Vernon Parish.
“That interaction is especially important in our field — emergency services. It’s an important partnership and we’ve always had a good dialogue with Fort Polk. This also keeps us abreast of new policies, technology and advancements. We really appreciate being invited to such a great event,” she said.
Chief Deputy Brad Walker, Sabine Parish Sheriff’s Office, said he attended the conference because he knows if there was a major catastrophic event and they didn’t have the resources to handle it alone, Fort Polk would be there for them.
“I feel confident saying Fort Polk would have our backs,” he said.
Craig Wilgus, Fort Polk DES fire chief, went over the process to follow when you need support from the fire department.
“The most recent request we received and assisted with involved a vehicle extraction on La. Hwy 28,” he said.
Wilgus said he has been at Fort Polk more than two years and in that time much has happened when it comes to emergency response.
“We appreciate all that our parish partners do and we hope they appreciate what we do in return,” he said.
Doyle said Fort Polk loves being part of Central Louisiana and strives to be a good friend and neighbor.