Editorial: Plenty to cheer about as Fort Polk left virtually untouched

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.

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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.