Alexandria staging base vital to training

Story Courtesy of The Town Talk

PORT FOLK — There has been an increase in Army vehicles on local roads of late. Convoys can be seen on La. Highway 28 West moving back and forth between Alexandria International Airport and Fort Polk at all hours of the day and night.

The reason for all this movement is the training taking place at Fort Polk’s Joint Readiness Training Center.

A rotation of about 5,900 soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, U.S. Army Special Forces Command's 4th Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, other key Army units and the U.S. Air Force are participating in a major Decisive Action Training Environment through Aug. 31.

The training includes what the Army calls an intermediate staging base at Alexandria International Airport.

Col. Randall Harris, deputy commander, JRTC Operations Group, said the airport staging base is a crucial component of the training.

“Decisive Action training is a shift as the Army transitions to what’s coming next,” Harris said. “We are going to try to get back to core competencies. The key training issues for the Army are combined arms maneuvers and wide-area security. That’s what we are really going to train for during this rotation.”

Brig. Gen. William Hickman, commanding officer of Fort Polk, said the JRTC initiates this training by using the staging base.

“This is a Decisive Action Training Environment in which the rotation is considered a global response force,” Hickman said. “As the Army completes its mission in Afghanistan and Iraq, it now has enough combat power in the United States to train a brigade combat team in other resources.

“Due to training like this, there will be 5,500 to 6,000 Fort Bragg soldiers that can be sent anywhere in the world.”

In the time that the rotation is based at Fort Polk, a wide variety of exercises and training scenarios are put into action.

A variety of aircraft are used to accomplish airborne assaults in the training, including about 16 U.S. Air force aircraft, a New Zealand C-17 and Canadian C-130s.

“The training will have the flavor of a joint coalition type mission and prepares soldiers for any contingency in the world,” Harris said.

Harris said the Fort Polk community has a great relationship with the people of Alexandria, especially England Airpark.

“I think that teamwork is the key to the success of the training that Fort Polk provides,” he said. “They have always had our back, and we have theirs.”

Deborah Randolph, Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce president, toured the staging base with military leaders this week.

“I was very impressed with what I saw today, and it makes me proud of the Army and my country,” she said. “We owe soldiers and their families a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.”