By Angie Thorne, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerOctober 21, 2011
FORT POLK, La. -- Brig. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, attended a Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce luncheon Oct. 17 in Alexandria for the signing of a community covenant between Fort Polk and Rapides Parish. Alexandria business, education and community leaders participated in the event, as well as United States Representative Rodney Alexander and mayors from Pineville, Boyce and Glenmora.
The Army Community Covenant is an agreement between the Army and local communities to support military installations and foster effective state and community relationships to improve the quality of life for Soldiers and their Families. Fort Polk has also signed a covenant with Lake Charles.
As keynote speaker, Chinn spoke to the packed audience about Fort Polk's storied past, the importance of present-day training and the post's potential in the future.
Chinn said that many of the successes of World War II are a direct result of the training that occurred in Louisiana.
"There is a proud history here and it is important that we don't forget it. That mission continues today as we train at the Joint Readiness Training Center with the goal of saving lives," said Chinn.
He explained units, equipment and training for chamber members. "Everything we do as far as training is realistic. We do one rotation every month and 10 rotations a year. So, 10 out of 12 months, we've got units coming from all over the United States to be trained. The Soldiers then
deploy for combat operations 30 to 90 days later," said Chinn. "In the United States, there are only two places that brigade combat teams train before going to war in Afghanistan, Iraq or any future conflict - Fort Polk or Fort Irwin, California, at the National Training Center. Fifty percent of all the forces that go to combat today go through the Joint Readiness Training Center. That won't change. As a training center, Fort Polk is vital to our Army."
Chinn said that Fort Polk would not be what it is today if not for community support. "We can't do this by ourselves. It's all about how the community embraces Soldiers and their Families," said Chinn.
He said it's an exciting time to be at Fort Polk when the idea of the installation as the best hometown in the Army is being cemented as reality "due to the efforts and support of great community partnerships like this one."
Ensuring a successful collaboration also depends on Soldiers and Families getting out into the community, Chinn said. "That's how we can better partner with them. We've got to be a part of the community. That is the message he is trying to impart to the Fort Polk community. Our Families have got to get out and see for themselves what communities like Alexandria have
to offer," said Chinn.
Chinn said he is enthusiastic about Fort Polk and the potential of Central Louisiana. "We are trying to partner with Louisiana Governor (Bobby) Jindal to seize opportunities for economic and educational development," said Chinn.
Later that day, Jindal signed the covenant at a smaller event at the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce in downtown Alexandria with Chinn, several Louisiana senators, representatives, mayors and Alexandria community leaders in attendance.
Jindal said he is excited about Fort Polk's future and what it can and will do for the Alexandria community and the state. "We've made major investments in the area to help Fort Polk and Central Louisiana grow. It seems like it was just yesterday, but it was really last month, that the general and I were together to announce 25 million dollars in funding for infrastructure upgrades that came as a direct result of Fort Polk's expansion into our cities and communities. Fort Polk is also a significant economic force in the state as the largest federal employer and with an economic impact of more than 1.7 billion dollars every year," said Jindal.
The covenant signing is about more than finances and figures, Jindal said. "Today is about a partnership and trust that are critical between Fort Polk and its surrounding communities, especially here in central Louisiana. This is a unique bond that we must continue to grow to make sure it stays strong. That's why I'm proud to join General Chinn in signing the Army Community Covenant, further affirming our commitment to improve the quality of life
for our Soldiers and their Families.
"The bottom line is that for our communities to grow and succeed, we must work together and be a team. We, in Louisiana, are proud that we support our men and women in uniform,especially over the last several years. Time and time again, they have gone towards danger and not away from it. That's why I'm so proud to sign this covenant, which serves as a commitment by the state of Louisiana, Rapides Parish and Fort Polk to be partners, improve our community's quality of life and support the brave men and women who defend our freedom. To General Chinn and the men and women he represents, I would like to say that we are proud of their service and grateful for their presence in our state. We are looking forward to an even brighter future and will continue to do whatever we can to support these incredible men and women," said Jindal.
Chinn thanked Central Louisiana and the governor for always supporting Fort Polk. "Clearly, today's signing is a testament of the community's commitment to take care of our Army's most precious resource - our Soldiers. We must never forget that the strength of our nation is our Army, the strength of our Army is our Soldiers, the strength of our Soldiers is our Families and
the strength of our Families is the support we get from the community. That's what makes us Army Strong," said Chinn.