Will you be having a baby here?

The nurses and staff on the Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Labor, Delivery, Recovery and Postpartum Ward love giving tours to expectant parents; unfortunately some days it’s just not possible. Please enjoy this virtual tour and learn more about what to expect when you deliver at BJACH.

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.”

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. 

Ausbun: False Narrative about Fort Polk based on the Box

By Tammy Sharp

LEEVILLE, LA.–Chris Ausbun, former garrison command sergeant major at Fort Polk and originally from Colorado, just recently retired after serving 23 years in the Army. 

Faced with the decision of where to spend his retirement, he and his family didn’t hesitate to choose Leesville, despite the reputation that being stationed at Fort Polk has among soldiers and their families. 

“Fort Polk is not looked on as a good assignment,” he said. “It’s a false narrative based on soldiers’ experiences in the Box.” 

The Box, short for “sandbox,” at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk tests battle strategies and the readiness of Army soldiers before deployment. Basically, it’s the best training in the world for a soldier on the cusp of being sent to battle. But there’s nothing pleasant about it. 

“Soldiers don’t like the Box,” said Ausbun, “because it’s designed to be difficult.” 

For most months of the year, soldiers from other installations across the nation travel to Fort Polk to receive training at the JRTC. Brig. Gen. David S. Doyle, commanding general of JRTC and Fort Polk, in a recent trip to Fort Hood, explained that the United States has an Army to fight and win its wars. 

The Ausbuns are shown here, from top left: Chris Ausbun and his wife Jennifer Ausbun along with their two school-aged children Ariana Ausbun (lower left) and Anthony Ausbun. Not shown are the Ausbun’s two adult children, Alyssa Gooden and Jordan Ramirez.

“That’s why we exist, and in order to do that we have to be prepared for any type of operation in any type of environment,” he said. “At the Joint Readiness Training Center, we predominantly train infantry brigade combat teams in large-scale combat operations so that, if they are called upon to go forward and deploy, they can use combined arms tools … to fight and win.”

But not all soldiers who come to Fort Polk will work in the Box, said Ausbun. Instead, some soldiers stationed at Fort Polk will typically support the rotations at the JRTC and, because of the leadership at Fort Polk, will also receive the best training possible. 

Who wouldn’t want their soldier to receive the best training possible? 

“They’re going to be the highest trained in the military,” said Ausbun, of soldiers stationed at Fort Polk. And their families will benefit as well. “The families will be taken care of very well because of the phenomenal garrison team.” 

Ausbun said he and his wife weren’t thrilled when they received their orders for Fort Polk. 

“We did have misgivings,” he said. But the reality is so much better, he said, speaking of an incident that helped his wife: a community crawfish boil at Anderson Farms where everyone was breaking bread together and smiling.  

“It’s not too often you get to see that, local, hometown professionalism,” he said of the experience.  

As the garrison command sergeant major, Ausbun had a lot of opportunity to interact with mayors, chambers of commerce and the school systems, he said. “We’re just surrounded by good people who want to make a difference.” 

“My kids love it,” he added. 

The Ausbuns have four children, a daughter, 22, who lives in Virginia with her Navy wife; a son, 21, who is a combat medic in the Army and stationed in Georgia; another son, 18, who attends Leesville High School, graduating May of 2022; and another daughter, 13, who attends Leesville Junior HIgh School.

Both of his school-aged children are doing well in school, Ausbun said. “The teachers truly care about students and will sit down one on one. 

“In fact, the principal at LHS, Scott Mawae, personally walked my son around,” he added. 

In addition, the support that the community offers veterans in the area is stellar, he said.

“For a lot of places, it’s a slogan, but here, it’s true. You feel it [veteran support] every day.

“We’ve been all over the United States,” Ausbun said. “The people here, the way people are treated is the reason my wife and I chose to stay here.”

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.

$7.5 Million Campus Connections and Learning Spaces Underway

By Tammy Sharp

February 28, 2022

LEESVILLE, LA.–According to Tim Ward, finance director of the Vernon Parish School District, construction has begun on a $7.5 million project to develop technology-enhanced learning centers at five Vernon Parish schools. 

In the fall of 2020, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the U.S. Department of Defense had awarded Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP) funds to build the centers at schools that serve thousands of families supported by the U.S. Army’s Fort Polk.

“There has been work done on all 5 campuses within the project,” said Ward. 

A pilot program, DCIP addresses quality of life enhancements in military communities. 

The Campus Connections and Learning Spaces project will provide children of military and civilian families with state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor learning environments that feature wireless communications, digital displays and interactive learning tools.

Louisiana Economic Development provided a 10 percent match for the Department of Defense award, which will enhance Leesville High, Leesville Junior High, Pickering High, Pickering Elementary and Vernon Middle schools.

Ward said that Leesville High School has the two pads in place for the technology and the STEAM building. STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The contractor is waiting on delivery of the building materials which is scheduled for early March, Ward added. 

Leesville Junior High has the two pads in place for the technology and the STEAM building as well and is awaiting the delivery of building materials. Also the pad has been poured for the outdoor learning center at the Junior High.

Dirt work has begun at Vernon Middle School and at Pickering High and Pickering Elementary for their pads for the two buildings. Also preliminary work on the access road for parent dropoff has started at Vernon Middle School.

Security cameras have been installed at all five locations and the sign for Leesville Junior High has been ordered.

The $7.5 million Campus Connections and Learning Project is the most significant Fort Polk education investment since the establishment of Parkway Elementary. That $20 million school replaced South Polk Elementary and opened in 2016 following a $16 million commitment by the Defense Department’s Office of Economic Adjustment, a $3 million match from the Vernon Parish School Board and $1 million from the State of Louisiana.

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.