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Fort Polk, LA Info


Vernon Parish
Vernon Parish
Fort Polk is a United States Army installation located in Vernon Parish, approximately 10 miles east of Leesville, Louisiana, and 30 miles north of DeRidder, Louisiana. It was named in honor of the Right Reverend Leonidas Polk, the first Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Louisiana, and a distinguished Confederate general in the American Civil War. The post encompasses approximately 198,000 acres. Of this, 100,000 acres are owned by the Department of the Army and 98,125 acres by the U.S. Forest Service, mostly in the Kisatchie National Forest. Fort Polk is the only Combat Training Center that also trains and deploys combat units.

Fort Polk began as a base for the Louisiana Maneuvers in the 1940s. It served the 1st Armored Division in the 1950s, and became a basic training post during Vietnam War years of the 1960s and '70s. It hosted the 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) in the 1970s-1980s, and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in the 1990s. Fort Polk is now home to the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), the 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, 115th Combat Support Hospital, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, the 162nd Infantry Brigade, U.S. Army Garrison and Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital.

The land that is now Fort Polk is part in a region of cultural resources, including archaeological sites, historic houses and structures, and other sites of historical value. The U.S. Army has spent considerable time, effort, and money on locating, identifying, and inventorying thousands of archaeological sites on Fort Polk and the property owned by the U.S. Forest Service where the army trains. For more information on these cultural resources, visit Polk History.org.

HISTORY

Construction of Camp Polk began in 1941. Thousands of wooden barracks sprang up quickly to support an Army preparing to do battle on the North African, European and Pacific fronts. Soldiers at Polk participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers, which were designed to test U.S. troops preparing for World War II.

Until 1939, the Army had mostly been an infantry force with supporting artillery, engineer, and cavalry units. Few units had been motorized or mechanized. As U.S. involvement in World War II became more likely, the Army recognized the need to modernize the service. But it also needed large-scale maneuvers to test a fast-growing, inexperienced force. That is where Fort Polk and the Louisiana Maneuvers came in.

Joint Readiness Training Center Patch
Joint Readiness Training Center Patch

The Maneuvers involved half a million soldiers in 19 Army Divisions, and took place over 3,400 square miles (8,800 km) in August and September 1941.

The troops were divided equal armies of two notional countries: Kotmk (Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kentucky) and Almat (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee). These countries were fighting over navigation rights for the Mississippi River.

The Maneuvers gave Army leadership the chance to test a new doctrine that stressed the need for both mass and mobility. Sixteen armored divisions sprang up during World War II after the lessons learned during the Louisiana Maneuvers were considered. These divisions specialized in moving huge combined-arms mechanized units long distances in combat.

On the defensive front, U.S. doctrine was based on two needs: the ability to defeat Blitzkrieg tactics; and how to deal with large numbers of German tanks attacking relatively narrow areas. As such, the Maneuvers also tested the concept of the tank destroyer.

In this concept, highly mobile guns were held in reserve until friendly forces were attacked by enemy tanks. Then, the tank destroyers would be rapidly deploy to the flanks of the penetration. Tank destroyers employed aggressive, high-speed hit-and-run tactics. The conclusion drawn was that tank destroyer battalions should be raised. Immediately after the war, the battalions were disbanded and the anti-tank role was taken over by the Infantry, Engineer and Armor branches.

In August 1950, the 45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma Army National Guard became the first unit to train at Fort Polk in preparation for the Korean War. During the Korean War the 45th Infantry Division suffered 4,004 casualties; 834 killed in action and 3,170 wounded in action  The division was awarded four campaign streamers and one Presidential Unit Citation.

Most of the units who rotated through Camp Polk during 1952-54 were trained for combat by the 37th Infantry Division of the Ohio Army National Guard. Although the 37th division itself was not sent to Korea as a unit, nearly every soldier was sent as an individual replacement.

In 1962, Fort Polk began converting to an infantry training center. A small portion of Fort Polk is filled with dense, jungle-like vegetation, and this helped commanders prepare their units for battle in Southeast Asia. This training area became known as Tigerland. For the next 12 years, more soldiers were shipped to Vietnam from Fort Polk than from any other American training base. On Jan. 23, 1973, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s negotiated settlement to the hostilities took effect. In October 1974, Fort Polk became the new home of the 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), and basic training and AIT started being phased out. Fort Polk changed from a Continental Army Command (CONARC) post in July 1975 and became a Forces Command (FORSCOM) member. In the spring of 1976, the Infantry Training Center at Fort Polk closed its doors and ceased operations. The final chapter of the Vietnam War ended for Fort Polk.

With the end of the Vietnam War, Fort Polk experienced a transition from an installation focused on basic and advanced individual training to that of the home of the reactivated 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized). Activated in September, 1975, the division called Fort Polk home until it was inactivated in November, 1992. The date of this inactivation, November 24, 1992, was exactly 75 years from the date of the original activation of the division on November 24, 1917.[6] The division was organized with two active duty brigades and a brigade from the Louisiana National Guard. While at Fort Polk, the 5th Infantry Division participated in the NATO Reforger 84 Exercise in Europe and the 1989 Invasion of Panama, known as Operation Just Cause. During the stay of the 5th infantry Division (Mechanized), Fort Polk experienced a major building program. The post saw the construction of new barracks, motor pools, 1000 family housing units, chapels, dental clinics and the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital. Also built during this time was a modern Post Exchange commissary, warehouses, classrooms, athletic complexes and improved gunnery ranges.

In 1993, the Joint Readiness Training Center moved from Fort Chaffee, Ark., to Fort Polk, and once again, the post was called on to prepare soldiers for conflict. Each year, JRTC typically conducts several rotations for units about to deploy. During the 1990s, Fort Polk based Soldiers deployed to Haiti, Southwest Asia, Suriname, Panama, Bosnia, and other locations. Weather support for the exercise is completed by the units participating in the exercise in conjunction with the 26th Operational Weather Squadron.

The 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment arrived at Fort Polk in 1993 as the armored cavalry regiment of the XVIII Airborne Corps. Elements of the regiment deployed to Haiti in 1995 in support of Operation Uphold Democracy and to Bosnia in 1996 in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. The 2nd ACR deployed to Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan and Djibouti in 2002 to in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and then deployed in Iraq in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (now known as Operation New Dawn). The Army announced on 14 May 2004, that the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment would be transformed into an Infantry-based Stryker Brigade and move to Fort Lewis, WA. The transfer of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk to Fort Lewis was completed in 2006. The 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment were later moved to Vilseck, Germany.

Information courtesy of Wikipedia