FORT POLK, LA — Members of the Louisiana Military Advisory Council spent March 19 getting a first-hand look at the training given to units during a rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk and its importance to units preparing for deployment to hotspots around the world.
The trip to JRTC and Fort Polk was scheduled as part of LMAC's semi-annual meeting in Alexandria.
The day began with a briefing by JRTC and Fort Polk Commander Brig. Gen. William Hickman at Fort Polk's Warrior Community Center giving the council a brief overview of the current JRTC rotation: Decisive Action training by the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley, Kan., as it prepares for a deployment to Djibouti, Africa, later this year. He also pointed out the strong relationship between Fort Polk and the local
community, as well as with other cities and towns statewide.
LMAC member and president of Fort Polk Progress, Mike Reese, expanded on Hickman's comments on how the installation works with local communities by pointing out the upcoming Education Symposium slated for March 27.
"The symposium is a perfect example of how closely Fort Polk works with local and state education and political leaders to improve education for the children of Soldiers at Fort Polk," Reese said. "We hope to create a partnership model for the rest of the Army to use."
Following the briefing, the LMAC headed out to the JRTC training area - the "Box" - for a visit with the 4th BCT, 1st Inf Div Tactical Operations
Center, or TOC. Col. Chris Cassibry, JRTC Operations Group, explained the JRTC's mission for rotational units and how it could help prepare a
commander for his unit's deployment. They also visited TOC operations to see how a brigade headquarters operates in the field.
The next stop on the tour was a visit to the American Consulate Office in Dara Lam, one of "cities" located in the JRTC training area.
Tom Burke, Director of Interagency Operations, spoke on interagency operations between conventional forces, special operations forces, other U.S. agencies and local governments (unified action partners). He told how the training is now incorporating the use of social messaging, how it's used by various entities and how the staff at JRTC is encouraging rotational units to use it. That was followed by lunch at the Dara Lam indoor mall.
The final stop on the tour was a visit with the JRTC Opposing Forces, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 509th Infantry Regiment, in the "town" of Sangari. Lt. Col. Matthew Tackett, commander, 1st Bn (Abn), 509th Inf Reg, told the council what types of unique training his unit could provide, then showed
some of the Soviet-style equipment his Soldiers use to make the training even more realistic.
LMAC member, retired Gen. Charles Campbell, said the JRTC and Fort Polk is important to the Army's Leader Development Program and in preparing units for deployments around the world.
"It's important that we (LMAC) have a greater appreciation for the work here so we can advocate for the post both statewide and nationwide," he said. "Fort Polk is blessed to have outstanding support from across the state, so this trip gives the LMAC an opportunity to learn, then pass on the unique capabilities the JRTC can provide for all branches of the military and the post's importance to Louisiana."
Deborah Randolph, president and CEO of the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce, said seeing the training offered at JRTC enhances her ability to serve on the LMAC.
"Multiple times today I've heard it said, 'This (JRTC) offers the best training in the Army,'" she said. "In my opinion, seeing it first hand helps me to be a better advocate for Fort Polk and its families."
Reese said spreading the word about the training available at JRTC and Fort Polk becomes paramount in today's world of shrinking military budgets.
"With budget constraints faced by today's military, it's important to realize what an asset Fort Polk and JRTC are to the rest of the services,
both active and reserve," he said. "And they can get this training right here at JRTC in Louisiana."
The LMAC was formed to provide a forum for issues concerning the installations and units of the armed forces located in Louisiana and the
military and retired military personnel and their families who reside in Louisiana. They are responsible for formulating goals and objectives to
enhance cooperation, coordination, communication and understanding among the military, U.S. Department of Defense, the Louisiana Congressional delegation, communities in the state interfacing with the military, and state and local government agencies.
Council members who visited JRTC and Fort Polk included: Campbell; Randolph; Reese; Hornbeck Mayor Clarence Beebe; Quint Carriere, representing U.S. Sen. David Vitter; retired Lt. Gen. Robert Elder; W. James Hill, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army; Brian Jakes, past president of Governor's Military Advisory Board; Steve Jordan, president, Central Crude; Hon. David LaCerte, deputy secretary, Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs; Col. Bart Pester, assistant Chief of Staff of Facilities, Marine Forces Reserve; Ben Russo, Cleco Power; retired Maj. Gen. Sandy Sanders, executive director, Plaquemines Parish Port; Paul Sawyer, executive director, LMAC; retired Capt. Ed Stanton, vice president, Witt/O'Briens; retired Col. Andy Thomson, Northrop Grumman; retired Capt. Donald Vinici, senior vice president, Entergy Corp.; Murray Viser, president, Barksdale Forward; and retired Capt. Chris Goode, managing partner, The Roosevelt Group.