FORT POLK, LA — There is an increase in Army vehicles on local roads of late. Convoys can be seen on La. Hwy 28 moving back and forth between the Alexandria Airport and Fort Polk at all hours of the day and night. The reason for all this movement is the current training taking place at the Joint Readiness Training Center.
To better help people understand the reasons behind the traffic increase, Fort Polk officials invited members of the Alexandria community to attend a tour of the Intermediate Staging Base (ISB), located at the Alexandria airport, Aug. 16.
A rotation of about 5,900 Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army Special Forces Command's 4th Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, other key Army units, and the U.S. Air Force are participating in a major Decisive Action Training Environment through Aug. 31.
Decisive Action training seeks to assure service capabilities are fully interoperable and interdependent to bolster unity of effort in Unified Land Operations. It supports the goals shaping the Army of 2020: Developing adaptive leaders and organizations, modernizing equipment and revolutionizing training.
Col. Randall Harris, deputy commander, JRTC Operations Group, explained what rotational Soldiers would be doing and emphasized that ISB is a crucial component of the training.
It’s training that is evolving. The Army has been doing counter insurgency training for the last 10 or 11 years, but that’s changing, said Harris. “Decisive Action training is a shift as the Army transitions to what’s coming next. We are going to try to get back to core competencies. The key training issues for the Army are combined arms maneuvers and wide area security. That’s what we are really going to train for during this rotation,” said Harris.
Brig. Gen. William Hickman, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk commanding general, said that JRTC initiates this training by using the ISB. “We are pretty happy with it (ISB) right now, including the area the aircraft is staged in. This is a decisive action training environment in which the rotation is considered a global response force. As the Army completes its mission in Afghanistan and Iraq, it now has enough combat power in the United States to train a brigade combat team in other resources,” said Hickman. “Due to training like this, there will be 5,500 to 6,000 Fort Bragg Soldiers that can be sent anywhere in the world.”
In the time that the rotation is based at Fort Polk, a wide variety of exercises and training scenarios are put into action. Harris said the training is complex, involving putting all the pieces together, configuring them, conducting rehearsals and exercises within the ISB and then preparing to move into the area of operation at Fort Polk. “Scenarios will include airborne assaults by helicopter into the training area and evacuations of some civilian citizens, governmental officials or nationals from inside the training area. While that’s happening, there is a free-thinking enemy out there trying to stop the Soldiers in this rotation from accomplishing their goal by looking for their weaknesses and trying to take advantage of them. At the same time there will be a large enemy attack and the Soldiers will have to go into defensive operations. Then we will transition them to an attack phase,” said Harris.
A variety of aircraft are used to accomplish the airborne assaults. There will be about 16 U.S. Air force aircraft, a New Zealand C-17 and Canadian C-130s. “The training will have the flavor of a joint coalition type mission and prepares Soldiers for any contingency in the world,” said Harris.
Harris said that the Fort Polk community has a great relationship with the people of Alexandria, especially England Air Park. “I think that teamwork is the key to the success of the training that Fort Polk provides,” he said. “They have always had our back and we have theirs.”
“The ISB is full of Soldiers in action,” Harris said. “People actually had the opportunity to see what we are using this site for. They can appreciate the enormity of the training efforts as the ISB comes to life, which will help them visualize what goes on here,” said Harris. “It’s a breathing, living beast right now.”
Deborah Randolph, Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce president, was a tour participant. She said that the realistic training provided at Fort Polk is invaluable to Soldiers preparing to deploy.
“I was very impressed with what I saw today and it makes me proud of the Army and my country. We owe Soldiers and their Families a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid,” she said.
William Earl Hilton, Rapides Parish sheriff, also attended. The military is more than capable of accomplishing the missions they are assigned, he said.
“After what I saw here today, I know that our military is capable, trained and qualified to do anything they set forth to do, anywhere in the world. I’m just glad that central Louisiana can be a part of helping these Soldiers get ready to do their mission. When I think that there are 6,000 Soldiers rotating through here in the next few days, I’m amazed. That’s an enormous amount of people to bring through England Air Force base and Fort Polk,” said Hilton.