Fort Polk, Vernon Parish Renew Cost-Saving IGSA

By Tammy Sharp

Fort Polk Progress

The following is the third of three articles detailing Intergovernmental Support Agreements between local communities and Fort Polk. To read the other articles, click here and here

FORT POLK–An Intergovernmental Support Agreement (IGSA) between the Vernon Parish Police Jury and Fort Polk could save taxpayers upwards of $20 million over the next 10 years and provide a source of revenue for the parish totalling approximately $1.3 million, said Vernon Parish President Jim Tuck. Congress authorized the development of IGSAs among military branches and local and state governments for installation support services in 2013.

Officials signed the agreement at Fort Polk on May 24, renewing an expiring five year agreement for another 10 years. 

“It has been a successful IGSA, benefitting both the community and the Army,” said Tuck.

The parish executes the agreement through its contract with the local business Waste Connections. The agreement ensures daily servicing of municipal waste throughout the installation, the collection of recyclables, and supports each rotation of soldiers through the Joint Readiness Training Center by collecting and hand-sorting field waste, according to an email from Nathan G. Jernigan, P.E. Chief, Operations and Maintenance Division at Fort Polk’s Directorate of Public Works. 

“These tasks were successfully performed through two major hurricanes, two tornado events, a major winter storm, while working in a COVID environment!” Jernigan wrote. “In all of this, no Mission impacts were realized due to Solid Waste Service concerns. These results reflect the team’s exceptional leadership and commitment to the partnership.” 

Officials began working on the original five-year IGSA in 2016 and executed the contract in 2017. 

IGSA’s ensure that Fort Polk remains competitive and the most cost-effective installation in the Army, said Senator Michael Reese (R-Leesville), who was instrumental in creating the first agreement. In addition to the cost savings, soldiers training at the JRTC can focus on combat readiness training, instead of trash sorting, he added.

At the time, the Vernon Parish IGSA was recognized as one of the most cost-saving agreements of its kind. 

“Initially when we did that IGSA, it was the biggest, greatest savings of any other IGSA,” said Tuck. 

In fact, Fort Polk’s three IGSA’s were the first major ones the Army and the Department of Defense undertook, said Chief of Army Partnerships, Ivan Bolden. “Those three resulted in an annual savings of several million a year. That was huge. Right now we’re averaging about $30 million a year. That’s a significant amount that the Army is saving.”

“Johnny Bevers (then deputy garrison commander) and Col. Thomas  (then garrison commander) for having the intestinal fortitude to bring those across the goal line,” said Bolden.  

“They are still significant,” Bolden said of the current Fort Polk IGSA’s. “If they’re averaging $6 million in savings, that’s 20 percent. The three IGSA’s at Fort Polk are providing 20 percent of the savings for the whole Army.” 

Bolden added that he was glad to see the 10-year agreement initiated  between the parish and Fort Polk and indicated he’d like to see agreements go up to 20 years. 

“It’s better to amortize assets over a 20-year period as opposed to a 10 year period,” he explained. 

In addition, he’s pushing the idea of partnerships involving non-appropriated funded (NAF) projects, he said. Cities and states could help run the Army’s MWR businesses and projects, such as golf courses, parks and recreational amenities. 

“We could save money and create efficiencies with that,” he said. 

Of the 186 or 187 Department of Defense IGSA’s, the Army has about 107 of them, he said. “We have clearly leaned forward and pushed and encouraged. Our communities have taken the call and said yes, we want to do these. 

“I understand Rosepine had to hire 30 plus people for the contract, so that was a win for the community. These things are very beneficial to the communities and the soldiers. I love being able to put these together.”

Taking Advantage of Dual Enrollment In High School

By Kimberly Wallis

With the rising cost of secondary education, anything that helps students complete college faster and at a lower cost, has appeal. Dual Enrollment (DE) can do just that, while also helping smooth the transition to college.

For those who plan on using the GI Bill, it’s important to know dependent children must be 18 or younger when the GI Bill benefits are transferred to them, but must also be over 18 or a high school graduate to use them. However, DE can still be useful as many majors take more than the standard four years of college. Having extra benefits available for tutors if your kids are having trouble with a class is an option as well. If you decide you want to transfer your benefits, get started by logging in here.

Cassie McKenzie smiles while showing off the Associate of General Studies degree earned through the Vernon Parish dual enrollment program.
Photo credits: Vernon Parish School Board

DE allows students to receive credit for the same course on both their high school and local technical, community, or four-year college transcripts. Students qualify based upon the academic requirements/guidelines set forth by the post-secondary institution. Their high school counselor helps them complete registration and select appropriate classes that meet Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) graduation requirements.

All schools in the Beauregard Parish School District offer dual enrollment through McNeese State University, Upper Iowa University, Pelican Chapter ABC, and Sowela Technical Community College. DE students here pay a reduced price for courses they take, with free and reduced lunch students paying even less. The Beauregard Parish School Board (BPSB) assumes the additional cost for this tuition reduction. Beauregard Parish School District Test Coordinator and Acting Curriculum Director Larry Hollie said courses typically provide entry level math, ELA, and supplementary courses that allow a graduating senior to enter university as a sophomore. He reported his district had 387 dual enrollments throughout the 2021-2022 academic school year. 

Two of Vernon Parish’s dual enrollment participants strike a smiling graduation pose.
photo credits: Vernon Parish School Board

All schools in the Vernon Parish School District offer dual enrollment through Northwestern State University (NSU), Sowela Technical Community College, and Central Louisiana Technical Community College (CLTCC). Lisa Lohman, dual enrollment coordinator for the Vernon Parish School District, says tuition fees are currently offset by the district through the use of Supplemental Course Academy (SCA) funding so the only financial obligations are the cost of textbooks and/or lab fees. DE enrollment here is open to all “qualifying” juniors and seniors and only to sophomores who make a full commitment to pursue the Associate Degree program. She also reported that Vernon Parish School District currently has 260 students participating in the DE program, with 91 students pursuing the Associate Degree. The graduating class of 2022 has 14 seniors who will graduate having already earned an Associates Degree from NSU!
If you’d like more information about the dual enrollment program, start with your local school district website. You may also want to check out the dual enrollment online portal recently launched by LDOE and the Board of Regents or the LDOE Fast Forward initiative.

A dual enrollment graduate smiles onstage while receiving his degree in Vernon Parish. Photo credits: Vernon Parish School Board

STARBASE Polk Launching August 2022

By: Charli Stanley

FORT POLK, LA.–Moving to a new area shouldn’t mean you have to deprive your child of learning about the fundamentals of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). That’s why Fort Polk pushed to become one of the many DoD STARBASE program locations. STARBASE Polk is scheduled to launch in August of 2022, debuting with a fifth grade program designed to provide curriculum, materials, and equipment otherwise not offered in the average school. It will become one of many locations under the STARBASE Louisiana sector of DoD STARBASE.

Science, technology, engineering and math have always provided a foundation for innovation. The importance of STEM enrichment can be seen all around you, from the machine you use to brew your coffee every morning, to the jets you see flying high in the sky. 

Students show off the results of their latest group experiment.
Photo courtesy of Laurie Ilgenfritz

STARBASE is a Department of Defense youth program designed to serve students without access to STEM learning opportunities. There are many locations stationed at National Guard, Marine, Air Force, and Army bases throughout the U.S. Their goal is to educate by using “hands-on, minds-on” activities designed to pique interest in fields such as engineering and robotics. Students are encouraged to perform in a team-centered environment and work together to learn how to solve real-world scenarios, such as extinguishing a chemical fire or launching a rocket.

The curriculum covers many topics such as physics and chemistry, energy, technology, engineering, and mathematics applications. The program, taught by accredited military personnel, offers 25 hours of rigorous learning that promote enthusiasm in students. 

“The collaborative project-based, hands-on investigations foster curiosity and ignite a passion for learning that spills over into the regular classroom. We strive to provide a place where all students can feel welcome, valued, and capable of doing great things,” said Laurie Ilgenfritz, executive director of STARBASE Louisiana. Many testimonials state that the students were surprised to find they had a fun experience while learning important principles, and teachers loved the hands-on learning opportunities their schools were not equipped to offer.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on February 1, 2022, announcing the Child Development Center as the new home to STARBASE Polk. 

Once established, the program is expected to expand from fifth grade to also being offered to sixth through eighth grade in an after-school program. During the off season, summer camp is to be offered for kindergarten through fourth grade students as well. 

Fort Polk continues to push for progress in education, ensuring your children are provided with the tools they need to build a successful future. With improvements such as this, your children’s time at Fort Polk is promised to be a fun and educational experience. To learn more about what STARBASE has to offer, you can visit their website.

TRG: President’s Budget Request For FY23

The Roosevelt Group reports: “On Monday, March 28, President Biden released his Budget Request for fiscal year 2023. The request reflects an administration juggling multiple far-reaching challenges: the ongoing COVID pandemic, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the failure to pass the Build Back Better Act in addition to domestic debates surrounding government spending. As a result, the initiatives highlighted are a combination of established Biden Administration priorities and new spending meant to address today’s global dynamic. The increase in defense spending is paired with requests to increase funding of domestic programs consistent with President Biden’s established agenda.”

For the full report, click here.

Fort Polk Progress Seeks Membership Development Services

LEESVILLE, LA–In a move to improve services to its members, the Fort Polk Progress Board recently voted to seek membership development services and has published a request for proposals.

“Fort Polk Progress is seeking an individual or firm who can direct and oversee membership activities; functions as a liaison between the Fort Polk Progress Board, its members and its various audiences; collaborates with the Chairman, the Board, and other employees; and provides oversight of membership data,” according to the request for proposals.

To access the request, click here.

Additionally, Fort Polk Progress seeks Blog Contributors, who can provide articles, photos or videos to its blog.

Anyone interested in either of these positions should contact Tammy Sharp at tammy@fortpolkprogress.com.

City of Leesville Renews IGSA with Fort Polk

By Tammy Sharp

The following is the second in a series concerning Intergovermental Support Agreements between Fort Polk and the surrounding communities. View the first article here.

FORT POLK, LA.–The City of Leesville renewed the first intergovernmental support agreement (IGSA) of its size in the world on March 1.

City of Leesville employees help maintain approximately 5,000 acres at Fort Polk through an Intergovernmental Support Agreement.

IGSA’s are provided for under the Public-Public Partnership Program in the 2013 Defense Authorization Bill and allows installations to both solicit partnership proposals from the field and benchmark existing partnerships. 

The contract, which saves the federal government both money and human resources, was worth about $2.9 million dollars in 2018. 

“We worked on it for eight months,”  said Allen, of the process of hammering out the details of the largest IGSA in the world. The contract has grown from the $2.9 million in 2018 to $3.2 million in the current contract, he added, with $1.7 million in savings per year for the federal government. 

The City of Leesville is also able to provide spousal employment to Fort Polk families through the IGSA, with Chris Ausbun, retired command sergeant major, as the director of the contract.

On the flipside, the city has been able to buy a new city hall and now has access to more equipment and resources that can be cross-utilized in the off-season to handle properties it had struggled to maintain before, such as its airport. In addition some of the revenue goes toward playground equipment in city parks. 

The city is also able to provide spousal employment to Fort Polk families and currently employs a retired command sergeant major as the director of the contract.

The agreement with Fort Polk was implemented under the leadership of Allen and Leesville City Administrator Patti Larney. 

The contract was originally signed by Col. Jarrett Thomas II, Fort Polk’s then garrison commander, and Allen. Allen signed the renewal with Col. Samuel Smith, current garrison commander of Fort Polk. 

In an article published at the time of the original signing, Thomas noted that the contract was a testament to the support Leesville offers to the Fort Polk community and that he’d never met more supportive community members. 

The city employees maintain about 5,000 acres, said Allen. 

Many see IGSA’s as a way to secure the missions of the JRTC and Fort Polk by allowing the installation to operate more efficiently and by keeping soldiers focused on training. 

Lady Cats claim state runner-up; Haug, Robinson win titles

By DANIEL GREEN

BWS Sports

MONROE – It was a performance to remember.

After falling short just a season ago, Leesville senior Seth Haug was determined to come back and make an impact.

He did just that.

Haug lifted a total of 1,315 pounds to edge out Bolton’s Burt Bullitts by five pounds to win the 242 weight class in the Division II State Powerlifting Championships held last weekend at Fant-Ewing Coliseum on the campus of Louisiana-Monroe.

Haug was the lone Wampus Cat to make the podium as he claimed the gold in his division. However, the Lady Cats not only brought home a state runner-up trophy for a second straight year, but they also had five lifters make the podium as Chloe Robinson was a state champion in the 181-pound class, while Celine Chavez, Rebecca Fournier, Lyasia Holloway and Rylei Taylor were all runners-up in their respective divisions.

As a team, the Lady Cats racked up 35 points in the meet, finishing just three points behind state champion Tioga, which finished with 38 points.

Courtesy Photos by TARA BEEBE Leesville senior Seth Haug is a picture of concentration and grit as he prepares to power up the bar during the squat competition at the state powerlifting championships last weekend in Monroe. Haug won the 242-pound class in the Division II meet. The Leesville Lady Cats, sparked by a gold medal from Chloe Robinson and silvers from Rebecca Fournier, Celine Chavez, Lyasia Holloway and Rylei Taylor, claimed the Division II state runner-up trophy for a second straight year.

Robinson garnered first place in the 181-pound class with a total lift of 820 points. Fournier, competing at 105, lifted a total of 490 pounds for second place, while Chavez was the silver medalist in the 114 class with a total weight of 625 pounds.

Holloway was the runner-up in the 165 division with a total weight of 715 pounds, while Taylor rounded out the top finishers for Leesville with a total weight lifted of 750 pounds as she competed in the 220 division.

The Rosepine Eagles were also represented during the 3-day event in Monroe as they finished seventh as a team in the Division IV competition, which was won for a second straight year by the Many Tigers.

Tristen Nolen, Collin Gill and Jesse Parker all won bronze medals in the respective weight classes. Nolen lifted a total of 1,085 pounds to take third in the 148 class, while Gill hoisted a total of 1,250 pounds in the 275 class. Parker rounded out the Rosepine finishers by taking third in the superheavyweight division with a total of 1,230 pounds.

Photos courtesy of TARA BEEBE

Leesville senior Seth Haug is a picture of concentration and grit as he prepares to power up the bar during the squat competition at the state powerlifting championships last weekend in Monroe. Haug won the 242-pound class in the Division II meet. The Leesville Lady Cats, sparked by a gold medal from Chloe Robinson and silvers from Rebecca Fournier, Celine Chavez, Lyasia Holloway and Rylei Taylor, claimed the Division II state runner-up trophy for a second straight year.

Fort Polk Communities Lead the Way with IGSA’s

Rosepine Mayor Grateful for Relationship, Opportunity

By Tammy Sharp

March 1, 2022

The following is the first of three articles detailing Intergovernmental Support Agreements between local communities and Fort Polk. 

ROSEPINE, LA.—The town council here is entering into its fourth year of a five-year Intergovernmental Support Agreement (IGSA) with neighboring Fort Polk that the mayor said has been nothing short of a blessing. 

IGSA’s were established through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2013 as formal public-public partnerships agreements between Army installations and their state or local governments for the provision, receipt, or sharing of installation support services.

Rosepine Mayor Donna Duvall (left) visits with Fort Polk staff during the State of Fort Polk and JRTC on February 7.

“It was such a wonderful achievement,” said Rosepine Mayor Donna Duvall of the town’s agreement for custodial services signed in 2018. “These partnerships are about community relationships.” 

Signed by then Garrison Commander Col. Jarrett A. Thomas, II, the agreement, reported at the time of the signing to be worth $1.71 million per year over the life of the agreement, provides custodial care to more than 100 facilities, or about 1 million square feet of space, on Fort Polk, at the Army Recreation Site and at England Airpark, where soldiers process in and out. 

The previous contract cost the base $2.4 million per year, saving the federal government approximately $3.5 million over five years, according to an article written at the time.

But the cost savings isn’t the only benefit of the agreement. The community partnership between the Town of Rosepine and Fort Polk is an invaluable resource, said Duvall. 

Members of the local communities not only benefit from the job opportunities provided by the IGSA, but many also truly value the opportunity to serve soldiers, she said. 

According to Duvall, the town can directly employ up to 35 people at one time, only a small handful of which are part time, in order to fulfill the contract. Some of those employees are seasoned people from the previous contract, said Duvall. 

According to its website, Rosepine was incorporated in 1902 with logging as its primary industry. These days, Rosepine’s population hovers around 1700, said Duvall, who is skeptical about the accuracy of that number, when she considers community participation during the past census, she said. The population is likely higher.  

Regardless, in the early 1970’s, the town’s wastewater system was built to accommodate a mere 700 people. The town has been working for some time to make improvements to that infrastructure, and the IGSA with Fort Polk will make it possible for them to finally have the matching funds for the project, Duvall said. 

In effect, the IGSA has been essential to the town’s infrastructure improvements.  

“Infrastructure problems are the things you can’t see,” said Duvall, with water and sewer the most important infrastructure for obvious health reasons. “You don’t miss it until it’s gone.” 

Located in the southwest Louisiana countryside, Rosepine is the second largest town in Vernon Parish and home for many who work to the north and south of the town, including Fort Polk soldiers and their families and retirees. Located about 13 miles to the south of Leesville/Fort Polk and only 3 miles north of DeRidder, this Christian community also hosts six churches within its 4 square mile area. 

Duvall married a soldier (now he’s retired), and the couple moved, and then came home to live on property her great grandfather owned, she said.  

Anyone interested in becoming part of the custodial crew that serves Fort Polk, should visit the town’s website. Daytime and nighttime schedules are available. The positions offer competitive pay, as well as vacation and holiday pay.

State of JRTC and Fort Polk

by Tammy Sharp

“Strengthening Community Partnerships”

FORT POLK, LA–Brigadier General David Doyle, JRTC and Fort Polk Commanding General, invited leaders from across the region to take part in day-long event at Fort Polk on February 7 that included discussions concerning quality of life, health care, and education.

Atendees were invited to browse military static displays and to take part in winshield tour before being treated to lunch.