Fort Polk is an Army post located in Vernon Parish in Louisiana seven miles from Leesville, Louisiana. The city of Leesville, population 6700, is situated between Shreveport and Lake Charles. It is 63 miles to Lake Charles, Louisiana and 50 miles to Alexandria where the nearest municipal airport is located. Fort Polk is the second largest employer in the state of Louisiana and has a huge economic impact on the entire state. The Army is situated on 198,000 acres. The Department of the Army actually owns 100,000 acres with the remaining acreage belonging to the United States Forest Service and part of the Kisatchie National Forest. The land that the post is on is both of historical and archeological value. The Army is sensitive to the values and has spent a great deal of money and effort insuring the values are preserved by searching the post and training center to find and inventory thousands of archeological sites in the immediate area where the Army trains.
The fort is under the command of the Joint Readiness Training Center of the 4th Brigade. It is the only training center in the Army which both trains and deploys units for combat missions. Other units included at Fort Polk include the 10th Mountain Division, 115th Combat Support Hospital, 162nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, and Army Garrison and Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital. The post motto is: The Home of Heroes. There are 9,300 active duty personnel at Fort Polk and 5,396 civilian workers.
The need for Fort Polk began in 1941 when the post was constructed to prepare soldiers for war in North Africa, European and Pacific fronts. The war preparations were called the Louisiana Maneuvers and involved a half a million soldiers in 19 different Army Divisions. In addition to mass training of troops, the then named Camp Polk was also a prisoner of war camp for captured Germans. The prisoners worked picking cotton and rice and cutting lumber. They weren’t forced to work and could refuse if they wanted. They were paid in script which they could use in their own post exchange to purchase necessities. Between the end of World War II and 1960, the post was closed and reopened numerous times as needed for training missions. In 1962 the now named Fort Polk became a vital training center for Viet Nam. Part of the land on the fort is marshy, dense with foliage and vegetation much like a jungle. It became known as Tigerland and was ideal for training troops on what to expect in Viet Nam. The Joint Readiness Training Center moved from Fort Chaffee to Fort Polk.
There are 4,258 family housing units on Fort Polk and 3,038 unaccompanied dorm units. There are 322 visiting officer and enlisted quarters. There is also a 70 room guest house. Family housing is privatized and managed/maintained by a company named Picerne that also manages post housing at Bragg, Rucker, Riley, Sill and Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The hospital at Fort Polk is a 160 bed facility that provides OB/GYN, surgical services, physical therapy, respiratory therapy, and emergency services along with preventive care and primary care. There is also an animal hospital and veterinary care on the post.
There is one child care center and several approved home sites for child care.
Two elementary schools are located on the post. High School students attend class in Leesville.
The Post Exchange has 130,000 square feet of retail space, one shoppette, and a small mall with kiosks, retail stores and fast food outlets. The commissary is considered a medium sized full service commissary.
Available recreation activities include youth centers, library, two golf courses, bowling alley, theater, auto hobby, recreation center, fitness center, tennis courts, swimming pools, arts and craft center, and camp ground. There are many places to hunt and fish in the local area.