Last Modified: Wednesday, June 26, 2013 5:08 PM
Amid all the good economic news that has been coursing through Southwest Louisiana comes Tuesday’s announcement that Fort Polk has been spared a severe reduction in its troop population.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., announced that the Vernon Parish installation would lose only about 240 soldiers over the next four years and its 45th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division would remain intact.
That’s a far cry from the potential 5,300 troop loss that area officials and residents feared might come to pass as the U.S. Army reduces its ranks by 80,000 soldiers in the next five years.
Landrieu and the rest of the state’s congressional delegation deserve some of the credit for making a strong case for Fort Polk. But, arguably, the largest impact came from the unprecedented rally of support for the base from southwest and central Louisiana government and business leaders and residents.
“It is through the tremendous teamwork displayed by all of our partners, from Lake Charles to Alexandria, from DeRidder to Natchitoches and from Leesville to Jasper, Texas, and all of the smaller municipalities in between that we can celebrate this victory,” said Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese.
Army officials couldn’t help but be impressed. More than 4,000 comments were submitted from our region to the Department of Army concerning the potential harm of troop cuts at Fort Polk. When Army officials visited Leesville for a community listening tour, they were greeted not only by a standing-room-only crowd in the United Pentecostal Church, but hundreds of residents who lined the streets between the base and the church.
More people responded to the Army regarding the potential troop loss at Fort Polk than any of the other 20 installations across the nation that were facing a similar fate.
For good reason. A study conducted by economist Loren Scott said that a 5,300 troop reduction at Fort Polk would result in a haymaker of more than $401 million annually in sales, more than 8,600 jobs lost and more than 20,000 lost in total population.
All the support our area could muster, though, would have been in vein without the capabilities and competence of Fort Polk and its mission of providing exemplary training for Army soldiers. The base’s Joint Readiness Training Center has a proud tradition of providing real-life training for a variety of Army combat units.
There’s plenty to cheer about here and an untold number of backs to pat for the support that clearly factored in the Army’s decision to leave Fort Polk virtually untouched.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.