U.S. Military Installation: Fort Polk, Louisiana

This Army base was the site of Operation Sagebrush

Fort Polk is the Army's Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) whose mission is to train and deploy combat and combat support units. From its start as a base for the historic Louisiana Maneuvers in the 1940s to a basic training post during Vietnam and its current mission, Fort Polk has executed all of the Army's missions during times of conflict and war.

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Brief History of Fort Polk

Soldiers being briefed after arriving at Fort Polk
Georgia National Guard / Flickr / Public Domain 

Named for Confederate Civil War general Leonidas Polk, the fort originally was a base for the Louisiana Maneuvers in the 1940s. It housed German prisoners of war during World War II, and it was a basic training post during the Vietnam War. 

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Fort Polk Mission and Overview

Fort Polk provides contingency training for the Army's light infantry and special operations forces and deploys home station and reserve component forces as well.

The JRTC is one of the Army’s three Combat Training Centers (CTC) built to train infantry brigade task forces and their subordinate elements in the Joint Contemporary Operational Environment.

Units deploy to Fort Polk to train against its Opposing Force in realistic, mission-essential scenarios with the 1st Battalion - 509th Infantry (Airborne). The JRTC training scenarios are basically mission rehearsals for actual operations the organization is scheduled to conduct. 

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Operation Sagebrush

Fort Polk was famously the site of the U.S. military's joint Operation Sagebrush in 1955, a nuclear readiness training exercise that lasted two weeks and involved 80,000 troops from all branches of the military. The activity with bombers and fighter planes circling the area caused some consternation among uniformed residents of Louisiana and Alabama. 

Operation Sagebrush was ultimately considered a failure; the results showed that U.S forces at the time were not prepared for an all-out nuclear assault like the one that was modeled.

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Fort Polk Location in Louisiana

Fort Polk is located in Vernon Parish in west-central Louisiana, about 120 miles from Shreveport, 150 miles from Baton Rouge, 250 miles from New Orleans, and 180 miles from Houston.

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Major Units Assigned to Fort Polk

Fort Polk's population on-post is roughly 8,500 active duty military and more than 6,000 Department of Defense civilian employees. More than 12,000 military dependents live on or near the Fort Polk Army base.

Units currently stationed at Fort Polk include:

  • 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division
  • 1st Battalion - 509th Infantry (Airborne)
  • 115th Combat Support Hospital
  • Bay Jones Army Community Hospital
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Visiting and Living on Fort Polk

All active duty service members with accompanying family members assigned to an installation within 35 miles of Fort Polk are eligible for privatized family housing at Fort Polk. For new move-ins, on the date of occupancy, military members must have a minimum of six months remaining on their current duty assignment. 

Children from military families at Fort Polk attend all area schools in the Vernon Parish communities.  Children of military families who reside on/off post may attend the South and North Polk Elementary schools, Vernon Elementary, Leesville, Pickering or DeRidder, depending upon where they live.

All children in grades five through 12, residing both on and off-post, may attend schools in Vernon or Beauregard Parishes. The Vernon Parish School Board operates 20 schools with an enrollment of more than 9,000 students.