By Sgt. 1st Class Ken McCooey, 162nd Inf Bde PAOApril 15, 2011
FORT POLK, La. -- One combat advisor training with the 162nd Infantry Brigade recently found himself starting training here again. He wasn't "recycled" due to a failure in training, but had to wait 36 years to return to North Fort Polk and Tigerland.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Boyd Laughman, an Army Reservist from the 375th Military Police Detachment, completed basic training and infantry advanced individual training at the historic version of Tigerland. Now, he is here training as a combat advisor with Class 119 at the 162nd Inf Bde's incarnation of the training site.
"It's always been my intent to return to Fort Polk," Laughman said. "It was a nice feeling to see the current version of Tigerland, but I wouldn't say it was a surprise. I was definitely happy to see Tigerland was on North Fort Polk."
There are similarities between the early 70s version of Tigerland and the current version. One is the large Tigerland arches on North Fort Polk, another is its location on the installation. That and training military personnel is where the similarities end. The old Tigerland was a collection of World War II buildings and dated amenities, but now features state-of-the-art training facilities to prepare military personnel for upcoming missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Laughman vividly remembers the days of the old Tigerland. He even remembers the date he arrived at Fort Polk: Monday, July 28, 1975. Another thing he remembers is the professionalism of the noncommissioned officers that trained him as a young private.
"Our drill sergeants were phenomenal," he said. "They were all combat veterans. They told us to shoot for honor graduate and stay focused. At the time, I didn't know what that really meant.
That kind of professionalism doesn't have an impression on you when you're younger."
One of the first events Laughman recalls is making a mistake any young Soldier could make. He was with another Soldier he had met, and they were walking down G Avenue when the "incident" occurred.
"I saw a jeep -- it was the staff duty officer's jeep," Laughman said. "I didn't know that you saluted the jeep. This first lieutenant stopped the vehicle, got out and chewed our butts for not saluting the SDO. We went back to the unit thinking we would be called out at evening formation."
But they never were, despite all the possible scenarios running through their heads.
Laughman said he has some "not so fond" memories of Fort Polk as well. He recalls a lot of bugs during his first trip to Tigerland and the oppressive summer heat and humidity.
"It's the only time I ever saw people fight over water," Laughman said. "We were turning in stuff to CIF (Central Issue Facility) and people were lined up at the water spigot. It had to be between basic training and AIT. It's much more pleasant here (this time of year)," he said in his preference to the more temperate springtime temperatures.
Not that Laughman has bad things to say about Fort Polk. In fact, he had a discussion with Col. Mark A. Bertolini, the 162nd Inf Bde commander, and touched on that subject.
"I've been telling the colonel, you hear all these people make bad comments about Louisiana," he said. "It's really not as bad as they think it is."
The training that Laughman is receiving here will be the last of his long career. He has served continuously in the military since 1975, and is just a couple of years from retiring from military service. Until that time, Laughman said he will continue to serve the military with distinction. He volunteered for the combat advisor mission, not even knowing he was coming back to Tigerland.
He turned down a promotion to CW5 to volunteer for this mission, something he will try to achieve again once he returns from his deployment.
Fort Polk held many memories for Laughman, things that were always in his mind, but came to the forefront with his return here. There are many names and faces tied to those memories, and while he hasn't remained in touch with his fellow Tigerland alums from 1975, they are far from forgotten.
"The memories have always been there, the names and the faces have changed, but you can see the same professionalism and enthusiasm in the NCOs," Laughman said. "I often wonder if I am the last man standing."