Members of the Peason Heritage Families took a tour on Fort Polk Saturday morning, visiting historic sites and hearing about the sacrifices of their ancestors.
The Environmental and Natural Resources Management Division (ENRMD) of Fort Polk conducted the tour of the Peason Ridge training area for the group.
ENRMD provided transportation for the family members and the public who participated in the tour.
The tour was lead by local historian and Peason resident Rickey Robertson.
He provided the historical background at each stop along the tour.
Among those who joined the tour was Fort Polk Commanding General Patrick Frank.
Frank addressed the tour group and acknowledged the sacrifice made by the Peason Heritage Families. "Because of your sacrifice and that of your families, the land they used to be on is now a world class traing area for our soldiers," he said. "This land is used to train soldiers and make them the best in the world."
The area, now used for military training in Peason, was taken over by the government in 1942. This forced the settlers and homesteaders to relocate.
Since then, the land has been used to train soldiers in every military conflict the United States has been involved in.
Robertson said the tours of the training area started in 2007 with the assistance of the ENRMD and its Conservation Management Branch.
"Conservation Management does a really great job in helping us mark and preserve the historical sites out here," Robertson said.
And as he pointed out during the tour, Peason has many historic sights within Fort Polk's training area.
Peason's rich history begins with the Native Americans who migrated with the buffalo that grazed on the Anacoco Prairie.
It includes General George Patton who was at Peason during the Louisiana Maneuvers.
Families who grazed their cattle once made a living from Peason's ground. And generations of wild horses can still be seen thriving on Peason Ridge.
The community of Peason gets its name from a combination of letters from the Peavy-Wilson Lumber Company that once operated there. The first three letters were taken from Peavy and the last three from Wilson in creating the name Peason.
At its height, Peason had a school, a hotel with 134 rooms, and 2000 residents. The sawmill town ran from 1917 to 1935 when the last tree was cut down.
Captain Jason James accompanied the tour through the training areas. He explained the different scenarios used in live fire training exercises.
"The training that takes place in the villages here involves live rounds and puts the soldiers in the most realistic training situation possible," James said.
In one training scenario, soldiers clear a network of tunnels constructed in the training area.
James also pointed out the extensive conservation effort the Army makes in preserving and setting aside areas of land which cannot be used for live-fire exercises.
Many areas on Peason Ridge have nesting places for the endangered red-headed woodpecker. In these areas no exercises are conducted.
"I think they are doing a good job balancing all of this," Robertson said. "The land is being well taken care of."
"I'm really happy the General came. That shows he has a real interest in the Heritage Families."
Robertson said a fall tour will be conducted in October.