Leesville Daily Leader - Leesville, LA
  • Yarbrough: Fort Polk's future couldn't be brighter

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  • Fort Polk will be even busier over the next 11 months as construction and renovations begin for the newly designated 162d Infantry Training Brigade (ITB).
    The mission of the 162d ITB is to train Foreign Security Force Transition Teams that will imbed with forces in Iraq and Afghanistan as combat advisors.
    "The future of Fort Polk couldn't be brighter," said Brig. Gen. James C. Yarbrough. “It (ITB) is a perfect fit at Fort Polk.”
    162d ITB will prepare about 5,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen each year to assist Iraqi and Afghan security forces as they evolve into modern and effective forces capable of securing their own population.
    According to Yarbrough during peak training as many as 18,000 soldiers could be at Fort Polk simultaneously taking the 60-day class to become combat advisors.
    There will be 820 new soldiers assigned to the ITB, and contractor positions will exceed that number to help facilitation of the program.
    Yarbrough explained that the ITB is in its third year and is moving to Fort Polk from Fort Riley, Kan.
    Every war since WWII has utilized combat advisors, but after Vietnam the program became dormant, Yarbrough said. Now with the sustained wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the need for combat advisors is again great and the U.S. Army has decided to train them at Fort Polk.
    Fort Polk is also unique in that it has one of only three joint training centers in the United States Armed Forces. The other two are located in Fort Irwin, Calif. and Germany.
    The Department of Defense (DOD) continues to express confidence in Fort Polk. In December 2007 the DOD announced that Fort Polk will also be the new home of a Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB) which will be comprised of approximately 1,200 soldiers.
    Fort Polk also had more than $200 million dedicated to improvements to the installation, including improvements for the quality of life for soldiers and their families.
    Sen. John Smith said, “This is a wonderful thing and I wish they (soldiers in the brigade) could come today.”
    City of Leesville Mayor Betty Westerchil and Rep. James Armes echoed Smith’s remarks.
    “We are very excited, and we can’t wait," Westerchil said. "We have been looking forward to this coming to Fort Polk.”
    The three also expressed that they feel the economic impact of the new brigades along with the returning of more than 4,000 soldiers home from deployment will be great for Vernon Parish and the surrounding areas.
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