Fort Polk took members of the surrounding community on a tour to pay homage to the Vietnam-era, and to see how things have since changed.

Fort Polk took members of the surrounding community on a tour to pay homage to the Vietnam-era, and to see how things have since changed. 

The Army base, originally known as Camp Polk, has opened an closed three times since its beginnings in 1941.

The Louisiana Maneuvers at Camp Polk were designed to test troops in preparation for World War II. They played a critical role in the war. Following this conflict, Camp Polk was deactivated, in 1946.

As the United States got involved in conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, Camp Polk reopened and, yet again, played an integral role in the military's exemplary level of preparedness.

The Army continued to modify training methods to reflect new weaponry, techniques, and strategies. To this day, the base is known for its ability to rapidly create training situations applicable to realistic events occurring in conflicts overseas.

"It's all about what's going on at the time," said John Beckwith, Army Civillian. Fort Polk responds and adjusts as soon as something, which might impact American soldiers, happens, he said.

Fort Polk opened permanently in 1963, as an infantry training center. It was crucial in the training of 1.1 million soldiers during the course of the Vietnam War, 1962 - 1976.

Fred Adolphus, director of the Fort Polk Museum, said “Fort Polk was very much part of the national consciousness at that time. All these draftees, they started their Vietnam War experience right here.”

Training at Fort Polk provided soldiers with invaluable experience.

A small portion of the base is filled with dense, jungle-like vegetation. This, combined with Louisiana's heat, humidity and precipitation, similar to that of Southeast Asia, helped commanders acclimatize new infantry soldiers in preparation for combat in Vietnam.

Mock Vietnamese villages were installed, so American soldiers could train to interact with civilians who did not speak English, identify possible hostiles and search out sabotage. This training area became known as Tiger Land, named after Tiger Village on Peason Ridge.

“They were training soldiers to cope with what they expected them to find when they got to Vietnam,” Adolphus said.

To this day, Tiger Land is used to train units and personnel designated as combat advisor roles, security cooperation, or as regionally aligned forces to advise, assist, and train partnered forces overseas.

Yesterday, about 300 guests from surrounding areas got a behind-the-scenes look at Fort Polk's premier training methods.

Attendees were able to see Vietnam War-era displays of weaponry, equipment, and vehicles, contrasted by those used on battlefields of today. This provided them an opportunity to visit the past, and see how things have changed.

For some, this was an emotional blast-from-the-past. For others, it was a new learning experience.

"This kind of adds to what I thought I knew; and changes it," said Sam Galloway, 26. He is a self-proclaimed history buff. Galloway watches a lot of movies about the Vietnam War, he said. "This has been exciting for me to get to hold weapons and look at machines and vehicles, which were used by soldiers he fought in the war." He enjoyed being able to see the way weapons have changed since the 1960s-70s.

Bethany Sellers, said her first husband was killed in Vietnam."This has been like seeing a ghost I've always known was there, but had never really looked at." Years later, and in her home country, this display was able to provide her with some closure, she said.