FORT POLK, La. — Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, commander, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, and Col. Sam Smith, Fort Polk garrison commander, hosted a “State of JRTC” event for local officials Sept. 1.
Among the guests were area mayors, state and U.S. congressmen and senators, representatives from Northwestern State University and Louisiana State University-Alexandria and officials with England Air Park.
The day’s activities began with a briefing by Gardner, who gave visitors a look into his background before delving into his goal of making JRTC and Fort Polk a great place to train, live, deploy from and come home to.
“We’ll do this by caring for our people, building readiness and succeeding in JRTC and Fort Polk campaign plans,” Gardner said.
Gardner shared with the local leaders the different units assigned to JRTC and Fort Polk, as well as the number of people the installation serves — 32,475 — including active-duty Army, other military branches, military Family members, civilian employees and transient and rotational units. He also pointed out the post serves 59,623 military and Department of Defense civilian retirees and military Veterans Affairs personnel.
Among other items Gardner highlighted were the number of rotations JRTC hosts annually (eight), and community partnerships between Fort Polk units and local parishes and towns. He shared JRTC’s “Winning the Fight for Talent” campaign that recruits top-notch Soldiers to join the observer/controller trainer team to ensure the best training is provided to units as they rotate through JRTC.
Gardner gave a Naming Commission update and said the plan to rename Fort Polk in honor of World War I Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. William Henry Johnson was slated to take place no later than Jan. 1, 2024.
Smith was next to brief and explained how Fort Polk was one of four “Quality of Life” installations in the Army. He then went through the myriad of quality of life improvements made in the past year at Fort Polk, and projects that have been approved for the future, including new barracks, housing improvements, a new Joint Operations Center, road repairs, Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation upgrades and additions, and a Texas Roadhouse Restaurant.
“We want to make Fort Polk a place where Soldiers and Families want to be stationed,” Smith said.
The highlight of the day’s event took place in the JRTC “Box,” the training area where rotational units face the crucible that is JRTC. Soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, conducted an air assault operation at one of the “villages” in the Box.
The Soldiers exited from helicopters, set up a perimeter around the village, cleared the village of the “enemy” and exfiltrated. The action was complete with machine gun and other small arms fire, plus explosions.
Following the demonstrations, the visitors mingled with the Soldiers and discussed what took place during the operation.
After a group photo with Soldiers, the local leaders were taken to Alligator Lake where they enjoyed lunch and an opportunity to visit with JRTC and Fort Polk leadership.