The Vernon Parish Police Jury is considering ways in which to prepare for an influx of troops and their families to Fort Polk over the next few years. The influx, a trickle at this point, will become a flood in the next few months as troops arrive home from war and a new brigade sets up shop.
A small portion of the newly designated 162d Infantry Training Brigade (ITB) has already arrived, a precursor to the 825 troops and family members which will officially be recognized at Fort Polk this March.
The mission of the 162nd ITB is to prepare other soldiers to assist Iraqi and Afghan security forces in learning how to secure their own populations.
According to Brig. Gen. James C. Yarbrough, commanding general of the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) and Fort Polk, the base, and Vernon Parish by default, could see as many as 18,000 soldiers here at one time for the 60-day training course that the 162nd ITB will facilitate.
Then there's the 4th Brigade 10th Mountain Division. In the next month, about 3,700 of those soldiers are expected home from Iraq.
Then, in 2013, another brigade, a Battlefield Surveillance Brigade (BfSB) comprised of about 1,200 soldiers, is expected to arrive at Fort Polk with their families.
"We have a lot of work ahead of us," said James Tuck, president of the Vernon Parish Police Jury and representative for District 1, as he addressed the jury at its last meeting of 2008. "It's gonna take all of us, the school board, the city, the outlying municipalities" to prepare for the demands that so many troops and their families will place on the infrastructure of Vernon Parish.
Tuck referred the jurors to a document from the Department of Defense (DoD) that offers insight into ways communities can prepare for the demands that will be placed upon them by the arrival of so many soldiers, family members and contract personnel.
The DoD advises that communities "undertake (a) growth management partnership with the installation."
In addition, the DoD pointed to a the President's Economic Adjustment Committee (EAC) as a resource to help communities manage growth.
"Through the EAC a Federal team can be assembled ... that would visit the growth location and provide specific advice," according to the DoD.
"I think it's a great opportunity we need to pursue," Tuck told the jury.