FORT POLK –– The U.S. Army Land Purchase Program continues at Fort Polk. The program began in 2008 and continues today as a major part of the Fort Polk leadership's efforts to maintain the Joint Readiness Training Center as the Army premier training facility.

FORT POLK –– The U.S. Army Land Purchase Program continues at Fort Polk. The program began in 2008 and continues today as a major part of the Fort Polk leadership’s efforts to maintain the Joint Readiness Training Center as the Army premier training facility. The land acquisition could not be done without the support of the local communities, Army leadership and elected officials.

The first parcel of land was purchased by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2012 and the Army expects the expansion to be finished within two years with about 45,000 acres purchased. With that acquisition, there is no additional land expansion planned to support Fort Polk units or the training center, according to Fort Polk officials.

The path from purchase to the ability to train on that land is a complex and arduous one. Several processes must be completed to bring the land into the Army’s range inventory and comply with federal environmental laws and regulations. Those include development of fire breaks, establishment of marked training areas, delineation of control boundaries and completion of endangered species and cultural surveys. Marking is also provided around sensitive areas and Records of Environmental Consideration developed.

“The Army promised to do these things in the Environmental Impact Statement prepared in 2009, and signed, after public review and comment, in 2010. The Army is keeping its promises,” officials said.

To allow for training, land purchases also undergo a number of real property processes which include legal property survey, installation of fences and signage, as well as the determination of specific Army sustainable range requirements.

These actions were expected to take up to four years to complete. However, efficient practices and planning allowed these requirements to be completed early –– thus the JRTC was able to conduct its first major exercise on the newly-purchased land in September 2014.

In September, the newly-acquired training areas south of Peason Ridge (Cold Springs, Kurthwood) allowed the JRTC to truly test the ability of the Brigade Combat Team of about 4,000 soldiers to project units from the Fort Polk training area into an expanded battle-space, said Brig. Gen. William B. Hickman, commander of the JRTC and Fort Polk.

While only a small part of the newly purchased land was utilized in September, the completed purchase process near the end of fiscal year 2015 will provide robust training opportunities to include large unit maneuvers and live fire operations –– all of which are critical to improving training opportunities for the U.S. Army.

At the time the Land Purchase Program was initiated, Fort Polk consisted of 198,000 acres, with almost half of that property owned by the U.S. Forest Service.  Forest Service land has a majority of the acreage restricted to limited use, while a much smaller amount is used for intensive training including live fires. The limited use areas are shared by the public and the Army.

“While Fort Polk leaders are grateful for the close partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, the new land will provide our soldiers new opportunities, currently unavailable, to master their profession,” said Hickman.