Fort Polk Progress Chairman Michael Reese announced today that the group's trip to Washington, D.C. July 28-30 was a resounding success.
Members of Fort Polk Progress visited with Senators Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) and David Vitter (R-Louisiana) as well as Congressmen John Fleming (R-LA 4th District) and Vance McAllister (R-LA 5th District) and staff members of Congressmen Bill Cassidy (R-LA 6th District) and Steve Scalise (R-LA 1st District), the current United States House of Representatives Majority Whip. Fort Polk Progress members updated the Louisiana Congressional Delegation on the Army's current process to reduce force structure.
In addition, the delegation and Fort Polk Progress plan to lead the way in finding budget solutions for the Army to prevent the drastic cuts that are currently planned.
"Fort Polk Progress is very appreciative of the tremendous amount of support we receive from all the members of the Louisiana Congressional Delegation," said Reese. "Force structure cuts aren't a reflection of reduced mission requirements, but a reflection of the current budget environment. We're working with the Louisiana Congressional Delegation to lead an effort to address that issue."
Members of Fort Polk Progress also explained to the delegation the importance of eliciting as much comment as possible on the Army's proposal through August 25, when the official commenting period ends. Fort Polk Progress requested that the delegation be involved during their August recess in educating their constituents about the impact of a reduction of force at Fort Polk and the process for making public comments about the issue.
In addition, Fort Polk Progress updated the Congressional Delegation about the status of current off-base community investments being made to support the military and what the impact on those investments would be in the event of any major downsizing at Fort Polk, including a $42 million investment in new schools; the University Parkway development; and nearly $8 million in quality of life projects in DeRidder, to include a new swimming pool, renovations and expansions to the post-secondary education/workforce development site in the First Street School, as well as other recreational projects.
Fort Polk Progress and its regional partners are very aware that as the Army gets smaller, more and more job opportunities will be needed for soldiers transitioning into civilian life. The group educated the Congressional Delegation on the growing job market in Southwest Louisiana as well as educational and job training opportunities being offered by the Southwest Economic Development Alliance.
With more than $70 million in announced projects in Southwest Louisiana, the SWLA Economic Development Alliance and the Chamber SWLA are working with the Fort Polk ACAP Center and the US Chamber of Commerce to host two job fairs, the Hiring Our Heroes Opportunity Fair and the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance Job Fair, to help transitioning soldiers and their spouses fill the 19, 936 new permanent jobs and 32,398 new construction jobs available.
For more information or to register your business for either event, please contact RB Smith, Vice President of Workforce for the SWLA Alliance at (337) 433-3632.
Fort Polk Progress members who traveled to Washington, D.C were: MIchael Reese, chairman; Jim Tuck, president of the Vernon Parish Police Jury and Fort Polk Progress Board member; Jon Grafton,executive director of England Airpark in Alexandria, La.and Fort Polk Progress Board member; Avon Knowlton, executive vice president of SWLA Economic Development Alliance and Chamber SWLA and Fort Polk Progress treasurer; Misty Clanton, director of Community Service, City of DeRidder; Chance Lewis, incoming president of the Greater Beauregard Chamber of Commerce; Rhonda Plummer, Vernon Parish administrator; James Williams, superintendent of the Vernon Parish School District; Renita Page, secondary curriculum supervisor of the Vernon Parish School District; and Paul Sawyer, director of Federal Programs, Business Development Services at Louisiana Economic Development.
Also while they were in Washington, Fort Polk Progress and its partners, Fort Polk and the Vernon Parish School District, received the Military Child Education Coalition's (MCEC) 2014 Pete Taylor Partnership of Excellence Award in the category of Outstanding Partnerships.
This annual award, announced by the MCEC at its 16th National Training Seminar in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, July 30, recognizes partnerships formed between military installations and school districts that serve military-connected children. Award winners are selected from schools and military installations around the world by MCEC, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the transition and educational issues affecting the highly mobile military child. A delegation representing the Education Initiative and its partners was honored and officially recognized at the July 30 ceremony in Washington, D.C.
To view or use photos from the trip, please click here.