Brig. Gen. David Doyle, commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana, speaks to Fort Leonard Wood personnel March 29 in Lincoln Hall Auditorium. Doyle visited Fort Leonard Wood this week as part of his “Winning the Fight for Talent” campaign. Like the Army’s updated talent management initiative, Doyle said his goal is to help ensure the right people – with the right skill sets – are aware of the available opportunities at Fort Polk and the JRTC, whose mission is to train and deploy combat and combat support units.
Brig. Gen. David Doyle, commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana, speaks to Fort Leonard Wood personnel March 29 in Lincoln Hall Auditorium. Doyle visited Fort Leonard Wood this week as part of his “Winning the Fight for Talent” campaign. Like the Army’s updated talent management initiative, Doyle said his goal is to help ensure the right people – with the right skill sets – are aware of the available opportunities at Fort Polk and the JRTC, whose mission is to train and deploy combat and combat support units.
(Photo Credit: Courtesy photo)
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FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Brig. Gen. David Doyle, commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana, visited Fort Leonard Wood this week as part of his “Winning the Fight for Talent” campaign.

Like the Army’s updated talent management initiative, Doyle said his goal is to help ensure the right people — with the right skill sets — are aware of the available opportunities at Fort Polk and the JRTC, whose mission is to train and deploy combat and combat support units.

Doyle called it, “talent management with precision, as opposed to blanket, industrial-scale — I have 20 empty slots; I need 20 humans.”

“No, we need to have 20 of the right people,” he said. “Some of that goes to matching preferences. If a Soldier likes to do outdoor activities — loves fishing and hunting — and has a family that likes to participate in camping and things like that, then, you know what? This is going to be a phenomenal fit for that individual. If their preferences are not aligned, we’re not trying to shoo them away, we’re just saying, ‘Hey, this is what we have to offer, here’s the things you can do while you’re here — and then you balance that against the professional rewards of some of the career fields that we have at the Joint Readiness Training Center. We want talented people; we want enthusiastic people; and we want people who recognize the importance of the missions that we have. Basically, all the other skills sets, we can either train, or you can develop and grow. If you have that enthusiasm, that passion and that desire to be on our team, I think that is probably the principle thing that we’re looking for.”

To accomplish this, Doyle and his command team travelled to 10 installations in 2021, and Fort Leonard Wood is stop No. 3 this year — he visited Fort Hood, Texas, in January, and Fort Carson, Colorado, in February. He said he modeled the campaign on the 75th Ranger Regiment, at Fort Benning, Georgia, and what they call their, “War for Talent.”

“They were on an active campaign to recruit the very best and to then show how they would take care of individuals if they were to serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment, because they would apply resources to help them progress personally, professionally and with their family,” Doyle said. “And so, I spent some time with the regimental commander there — I studied the problem set with them — and then modified it. We pretty much took a lot of the things that they were doing, adjusted it for the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, and started implementing some of the same strategies.”

Doyle said his team has visited U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command installations, U.S. Army Forces Command installations, school houses and fielded units in the pursuit of talent, and the visits have had a secondary, positive outcome as well.

“What we’re finding is a lot of people in the Army don’t know about Fort Polk, and they don’t know about the Joint Readiness Training Center,” he said. “So, it’s almost an education, or a leader development opportunity as much as it’s a recruiting opportunity.”

The team is starting to see the results of the different visits over the past year, Doyle said.

“People are starting to come on the installation and say, ‘Yeah, I met you when you came and visited our post, and you talked about this, and here it is,’” he said. “So, we’re trying to figure out what our good measures of performance, measures of effectiveness are, to see where we need to adjust or modify this as we go forward.”

There are a lot of, “selling points,” Doyle said, to entice Soldiers to seek assignments at Fort Polk.

“The professional broadening that an individual receives while they serve, especially at the operations group, within the Joint Readiness Training Center is unmatched,” he said. “You are practicing your warfighting skills; you’re watching units go through rigorous combat replication again and again and again; and you come out of that with the experience that enables you to serve the Army more effectively. You’re a better leader; you’re a better planner; and you’re a better organizer having done that.”

Doyle, who briefed officers and NCOs during this visit, said another major draw for Fort Polk are the, “instant opportunities for leadership roles.”

“There are very, very short queues to get the experience that makes you more marketable in the Army,” he said. “If you come to Fort Polk, we’re going to put you right into a job. You’re not going to sit behind five different people before you get your chance to take a swing. I think that entices people to come, and it fits with their professional development — and then their families get to enjoy some of the amenities on the installation as well.”

Fort Polk was chosen by the Army to be one of four “Quality of Life Installations” — along with Fort Wainwright, Alaska; Fort Hood, Texas; and Fort Irwin, California — and funding from this initiative has improved, “what you can see on the installation, but a lot of it deals with the way we treat our people and the way that we’re trying to account for their needs, so that they thrive,” Doyle said.

“I’ve been going to the JRTC and Fort Polk since 1994, so I’ve seen some of the first iterations of what that installation looked like, and the improvements have really been magnified in the last five years,” he added. “The Army has spent money on infrastructure, on human capital, on some of the things that would make a base more likely to be a good power projection platform to send deploying Soldiers abroad. Each one of those things compounds and intensifies. When we fix our roads, then it’s easier for our units to go train, and if they can go train, then you have more job satisfaction; if you have more job satisfaction, you’re more enthusiastic about being at the installation. We’re improving our barracks. That started in 2017, and we’re getting to the point where we’re going to open up brand new barracks this year. That’s been a long project that’s coming to fruition. For the families, we’ve got a 50-meter pool that’s opening up; we’ve done work on our bowling alley. It’s a little bit of infrastructure, but it’s also things that are intangible — we have a spouse employment coordinator, and she has been able to find more opportunities for spouses of Soldiers who come to Fort Polk to work locally, regionally or nationally. And really, the pandemic has made us aware of more opportunities that are out there, so she’s been able to harness that and put people in jobs that they wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do.”

Getting Soldiers and their families to volunteer for an assignment to Fort Polk requires countering some preconceived ideas about central Louisiana and the installation. Doyle said sometimes Soldiers build their impression of Fort Polk based solely on their training experiences at the JRTC.

“It’s difficult; it’s demanding; it’s intense — it’s kind of miserable,” he said. “It’s intended to put pressure on the formation and the leaders, so that they can operate under stress. Sometimes, people associate that experience with what it must be like to be at Fort Polk. That’s obviously not the case. We’re an installation just like any other installation — people live in houses, not tents; people go to the Commissary and the (Post Exchange), so we have to remind people that what happens in the training area is designed to be rigorous, and what happens on the installation is designed to facilitate their job, their profession, their families.”

Any Soldier who built their impression of Fort Polk even just five years ago should re-think an assignment there, Doyle advised.

“It’s a totally different place now,” he said. “We’re continuously making improvements, and a lot of that has been due to recognition by the Army that our installation has to find the right talent, so we’ve got to make it better for the people who come. And part of it is just the people who are doing great work — our garrison environment is magnificent; the community that surrounds us loves Fort Polk — they’re patriots, who respect the way the military operates. Each one of those things helps us counter the narrative that maybe a preconceived idea that’s informed by assumptions rather than reality.”

Doyle said his and the other talent management efforts out there produce results for, “the whole Army, and not just one base or another base.”

“It sounds like it’s a zero sum game, that if Fort Polk gets somebody, that maybe Fort Leonard Wood doesn’t, but the reciprocal is there as well,” he said. “We’re sending our best talent to go do great things at other installations. I have no worries about when somebody says, ‘I need to go do this job on this post.’ Yeah, go — go take the experiences that you gained and be successful somewhere else. That makes the Army better. This competition aspect is a little exaggerated. Now, fitting the right people to the right jobs can be a challenge when we’re all looking for some of those same skill sets, but if you’re bouncing people around, and they take lessons learned from one installation and they go to another, I think the Army, as a whole, gets better.”

This was Doyle’s first visit to Fort Leonard Wood, and he thanked Maj. Gen. James Bonner, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, for being “a magnificent host.”

“I’ve really enjoyed being here at Fort Leonard Wood,” Doyle said. “General Bonner is doing a lot of fantastic things — we’re going to borrow some of his ideas. I count it as a great opportunity, not just for doing the ‘Winning the Fight for Talent’ campaign, but to learn more, myself, about how this center of excellence is important to the Army.”