As part of troop realignment where bases across the nation see a reduction of 80,000 troops, Fort Polk will lose just 240 soldiers due to base realignment, officials announced Tuesday.
As part of the Army 2020 realignment, Fort Polk will lose just 240 troops instead of the initially expected 5,300 proposed earlier this year.
During a press conference Tuesday, Sen. Mary Landrieu said troops will be reduced by only 240 over the next four years, and the Brigade Combat Team will remain intact.
There will be a reduction of 80,000 troops at bases nationwide over the next four years.
Sen. Landrieu stated a tough challenge had been met, Fort Polk had been spared, and credit was due to local support, specifically Fort Polk Progress.
"The news today could not be better," she said. "This fares very well for Fort Polk in the present and the future."
Since the announcement of possible troop reduction earlier this year, Fort Polk Progress scheduled several community meetings to involve citizens.
Many people in Leesville, DeRidder, and at Fort Polk, wrote letters ands sent e-mails in an effort to spare Fort Polk.
Citizens lined the streets from Fort Polk to downtown Leesville, and businesses displayed posters, at one of the last public meetings in mid-April.
A group of local business leaders traveled to Washington, D.C. recently to meet with Sen. Landrieu, the Department of the Army, and other representatives to speak in support of the base.
Sen. Landrieu credited the community's commitment and hard work to build one of the country's finest military installations, and mobilize support.
"Today the hard work of the Central Louisiana community has paid off," Landrieu said. "Together we have kept Fort Polk strong. Years ago our community and local businesses joined together to start Fort Polk Progress and move this installation forward.
"I have been proud to partner with them to transform this region into a great place for the Army to stay and grow," Landrieu said. "And where soldiers and their families have a high quality of life. Because of this work, and the unwavering commitment of the Central Louisiana community, the Army has recognized the strategic importance of Fort Polk.
"I'm very proud of our successful work together and I will continue fighting to not just keep Fort Polk strong and intact, but to keep it growing," Landrieu said.
Mike Reese, Fort Polk Progress president, has been working with Sen. Landrieu since before the announcement of proposed troop reduction.
"I want to thank Sen. Landrieu for her leadership and partnership in this successful effort to keep Fort Polk intact," Reese said. "Over the years she has fought to ensure Fort Polk has the resources we need, and has led the effort to bring in more than $1 billion in investments since 2005.
"Her dedication and focus allowed us to have a seat at the table with the Army during this process to explain Fort Polk's military value," he said. "Her partnership and leadership has been invaluable. This is an exciting day for us."
Reese stated many people had been apprehensively waiting on the news, and many had worked on this project for seven years.
He credited Sen. Landrieu on keeping a team together throughout the process and remaining steadfast.
Sen. Landrieu said she wanted to thank the Vernon Parish School Board for stepping up to build the new elementary school.
She also credited public support, and said the phone calls and emails from citizens had a tremendous impact on the decision.
"Central Louisiana and the Fort Polk community sent more comments than all the other communities combined," Landrieu said. "This was strong evidence of public support. And not every community has a group like Fort Polk Progress."
Earlier this month, Sen. Landrieu stressed the need to preserve the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey at a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing.
Sen. Landrieu met with members of Fort Polk Progress and other local leaders in April in Washington, D.C. to discuss ongoing efforts to keep Fort Polk intact.
She has worked with the Fort Polk community for years to improve the base. She secured $27 million in federal money for the purchase of 4,900 acres south of Fort Polk to support expansion, and wrote to the Secretary of the Army to urge approval of the land acquisition.
Fort Polk is currently the only Army installation that is growing in size.
Sen. Landrieu worked with the local community to raise $20 million, including $18.3 million in federal funds she secured, to construct South Polk Elementary for the children of military families.
Over the past two years, Sen. Landrieu has secured nearly $100 million in federal funds for military construction projects at the base, including $23 million for the brigade complex, $9.2 million for the fire station, and $6.1 million for the child care facility. She also secured $11 million for housing improvements.