House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, right, tours the new Warrior Transition Unit barracks at Fort Polk on Thursday. (Elona Weston / Special to the American Press).
Brig. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn, Fort Polk and Joint Readiness Training Center commander, speaks at a grand opening ceremony on Thursday for the new Warrior Transition Unit barracks at Fort Polk. The facility will house 112 wounded soldiers. (Elona Weston / Special to the American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, June 16, 2012 9:35 PM
FORT POLK — More than 100 wounded Fort Polk soldiers have a new home, designed and constructed specifically for them.
Fort Polk officials chose Thursday, the U.S. Army’s 237th birthday and Flag Day, to unveil the new Warrior Transition Unit barracks.
A ribbon cutting was part of Thursday’s events, which included a run, cake cutting and speeches by William James Hill, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army for Louisiana, and state Rep. Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, the speaker of the House of Representatives.
Kleckley was the keynote speaker for the barracks’ opening ceremony. He spent the day touring the installation and the WTU facilities with Fort Polk officials, including base and Joint Readiness Training Center commander Brig. Gen. Clarence K.K. Chinn.
“It is an honor and privilege to be up here today for the opening of the WTU barracks. This plays such a critical, important part of what Fort Polk does for the military, for the recovery of the soldiers and for them transitioning — whether it’s back to military life or civilian life,” Kleckley said.
Kleckley told officials, soldiers, families and employees that he will tout Fort Polk as a state asset in Baton Rouge, specifically to Gov. Bobby Jindal.
“This is just another reason why Louisiana needs to do everything we can to support Fort Polk and to continue to support Fort Polk to give them the resources they need from us in Baton Rouge,” he said.
Kleckley said Thursday was his first visit to Fort Polk.
“I have been very, very impressed. You hate to say it, but Fort Polk may be a hidden gem up here in the Vernon Parish area with all the resources they have — not only soldiers, but the families, the civilians and the retired soldiers that live in the general area,” he said.
The barracks, which are co-ed, are the first Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant WTU barracks in the Army. Fort Polk broke ground on the $17.2 million project in August 2010.
The barracks, built close to the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital and the Soldier Family Assistance Center, have 56 suites with two-person rooms and are equipped with elevators. In all, they will house 112 soldiers.
They have handicapped-accessible bathrooms, showers and laundry rooms. Kitchens, bedrooms and doorways are spacious enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.
A reception desk will be manned at all times, and workers there will have radios linked directly to the post’s emergency services section.
There are also rest and recreation areas.
The barracks were built completely with recycled materials.
Base officials say soldiers will move in by mid-July.