Vernon Parish School Board President Vernon Travis enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard in 1981. He was a student at Northeast Louisiana University in Monroe and the enlistment was required as part of the ROTC program under a simultaneous enlistment contract.
He was assigned to shadow a platoon leader of a heavy construction unit within the 528th Engineers in Monroe.
Travis received his officer's commission in 1982 and he was recognized as the Louisiana Cadet of the Year.
His first assignment after receiving his commission was to establish a new National Guard unit in Columbia, Louisiana. At that time he was assigned as a heavy engineer detachment commander.
He recalls that when they started the unit they were given a part of a school to set up the unit in but many years later an actual armory was built.
In 1984 Travis was deployed as the engineer detachment advisor to Panama on a project called ‘Minutemen Blazing Trails I & II’.
Travis recalls that the National Guard was sent in to assist the Panamanian government to establish some roads in the rural areas, deep in the jungles.
Minutemen I was conducted in Panama from February through May 1984. A total of 778 Army guardsmen from Louisiana, Florida, and Puerto Rico constructed a 15-kilometer road on the west coast of the Azuero Peninsula.
During Blazing Trails in 1985, the road, previously constructed during the Minutemen I exercise, was repaired and a new 27-kilometer road was constructed in Panama. Construction took place in the area of the Azuero Peninsula with 5,418 Army guardsmen participating in the exercise.
During Blazing Trails II in 1986, 484 Army guardsmen supported a U.S. Army Reserve unit, which built a new 20-kilometer road in Panama.
Travis said that his unit was given oversight of the project and they operated as the site inspectors.
In 1985 Travis received orders to report for active at to Fort Benning, Georgia where he trained in the infantry and he went to airborne school.
Travis said that he had a plan. He joined the army to see the world but as soon as he completed basic training and airborne school his first duty assignment took him to within seven miles of the house he grew up in. Travis was ordered to Fort Polk.
He spent just over four years at Fort Polk in various positions with 1-61st Infantry Battalion. He served as platoon leader, the company executive officer, and within the Battalion S1.
When Travis was eligible to be promoted to Captain in 1990 he was transferred to Military Intelligence, involuntarily. He was not thrilled with the path his career was taking at this point. He said the plan he had for himself was that he was going to retire as a General in the Infantry.
He said that shortly after receiving his transfer order he submitted his resignation. His commanders refused to accept his resignation and refused to sign it. Travis was stuck.
Having no other legal way to get out of the assignment Travis was sent to Fort Huachuca, Arizona for his MI training.
After his training was complete Travis was due to be sent back to Fort Polk to work in the Finance Division, or S2 of a unit. He said that with him being an infantry guy he was definitely not interested in working in the finance department.
He found out that there was an opening in the division cavalry squadron. “That was the eyes and ears of the division in combat,” Travis said. He asked his colonel to be put in that job.
Travis did not have the necessary experience for the job and he was told no. As a counteroffer to the colonel, Travis again asked for the position. He then reminded the colonel that he was due to PCS out of Fort Polk and unless he was given the position, he was going to PCS.
Following a colorful remark by the colonel, Travis was then given orders into that position.
Making the transition to Military Intelligence was not in his sights but it turned out to be very good for him. “That was the best job I ever had,” Travis said.
He made several trips to Fort Huachuca and had six rotations to Fort Irwin, California for training during the 90s.
In 1992 or 1993 he received orders to Kuwait during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield where he served as a Military Intelligence Observer Controller training the units that were deploying.
In 1994 he was eligible for promotion to Major but instead opted for early retirement. At his retirement, Travis was told by his commander “you go and teach these MI people how we think as infantry people.”
Travis said that he did not understand what the colonel was saying until the time came and he started doing it.
In 2001 Travis started working as a scenario intelligence writer for two different government contractors who were responsible for creating the scenarios and training methods used for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He then wrote manuals on how to detect and find IED’s for JIEDDO.
In 2015 Travis completely retired for military service. Now he spends his free time running a hobby fishing guide service and serving the students and teachers of Vernon Parish.