Fort Polk takes part in statewide disaster response exercise

By Angie ThorneApril 25, 2023

Fort Polk takes part in statewide disaster response exercise
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff brief Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, during the disaster response exercise in the Warrior Operations Center April 20. (Photo Credit: Angie Thorne) VIEW ORIGINAL
Fort Polk takes part in statewide disaster response exercise
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Soldier from the 46th Engineer Battalion guards a critical asset April 20 as part of the disaster response exercise. (Photo Credit: Angie Thorne) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT POLK, La. — Fort Polk partnered with the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and Louisiana National Guard in a disaster response exercise April 17-23 as part of the state’s preparation for the upcoming severe weather season.

One of the goals of the collaboration is to strengthen the partnerships critical to protecting the state population. Fort Polk’s portion of the exercise took place April 20.

The scenario:

Multiple catastrophic events across the state took place in a 24-hour period. The exercise began with a hurricane hitting New Orleans April 17.

The Adjutant General of Louisiana requested assistance from Fort Polk. Meanwhile, another event on April 19 lead to Vernon Parish assets being overwhelmed by other activities. Vernon Parish requested Fort Polk’s support to provide security for critical infrastructure.

Fort Polk’s crisis action team and command team conducted mission analysis and assigned the 46th Engineer Battalion to provide coverage after being approved by Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general. Gardner received the brief in the Warrior Operations Center and approved the mission set.

Fort Polk deployed the 687th Engineer Construction Company to two locations off installation to secure critical assets.

Fort Polk stood ready to provide support to the deployed state assets. This exercise satisfied a major training objective for both the National Guard and Fort Polk.

This exercise was complex and had a lot of moving parts.

“The interoperability of active-duty Soldiers and the National Guard working together can only contribute to the safety of the community in the event of a crisis,” said 2nd Lt. Cody Kellum, National Guard Public Affairs.

Mark Leslie, Fort Polk Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security director, said the Army has a process for everything, but what makes them work are the relationships cultivated through events like this exercise.

The National Guard Advisor office is an integral part of the Fort Polk team, not only for rotations, but for crisis events such as this exercise.

“Fort Polk has long had a positive relationship with the Louisiana National Guard and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, as well as our local parish emergency managers, law enforcement, fire departments and private utility partners,” Leslie said. “When a crisis occurs, Fort Polk is not an island. We rely on them and they rely on us. Working jointly ensures the most rapid response and recovery for the Fort Polk community and our parish and state partners. The state’s success is our success and vice versa.”

1st Sgt. Nathan Gulley, 46th Engineer Battalion, along with other representatives from the battalion, took part in the Warrior Operations Center briefing to gather critical information before briefing their Soldiers on the best way to carry out their mission as part of the exercise.

“At the end of the day, we are one Army. Partnerships like this highlight the fact that we have skillsets that can be leveraged from both forces and this is an opportunity to have an interchange of expertise,” Gulley said.

Dealing with natural disasters such as the state’s most recent brush with hurricanes Laura and Delta are a fact of life in Louisiana.

“The hurricanes were horrific events, but some good did come from them. We learned a lot and strengthened our already strong relationships with the Guard and GOHSEP. Exercises such as this one help maintain those relationships,” Leslie said.

Louisiana will soon be heading into its severe weather season and that’s not something the Army takes lightly.

“We don’t, nor do our Guard partners (take severe weather lightly), hence the importance of this exercise and our inclusion in it. This installation will be ready and this exercise is just another way we can make sure we best protect our population and preserve our mission capability for the nation,” Leslie said.

Participating in an exercise like this is important because when it’s the real thing all parties want to be prepared.

“When a real emergency hits, I, and I believe the Soldiers in our unit, feel privileged and proud to give back to the community by making sure we assist in getting the infrastructure back up, protect and help in any other way possible so families can get back to their day-to-day routines,” Gulley said. “Being that we are active-duty Soldiers stationed here at Fort Polk, we are part of this community and we feel privileged to give back to that community.”