FORT POLK, La. –
The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk is known throughout the Defense Department as the premier combat training center for the Army. Nestled in the pine forests of central Louisiana, the installation has the land capacity to support world class brigade combat scenarios to prepare the modern warfighter for potential near peer conflicts abroad.
Many Soldiers have preconceived ideas about the installation based on their time in the “box” and the austere training environment associated with rotational combat scenarios conducted at Fort Polk.
According to Keri Brandt, Winning the Fight for Talent project officer, Fort Polk is redefining the way they approach recruitment to ensure the installation gains and retains highly-qualified officers, noncommissioned officers, and Soldiers.
“At JRTC and Fort Polk, we approach talent management with precision,” she said. “ Conducting talent management with intentionality allows us to build readiness and train the force to fight and win with an unparalleled level of authority. We then send cultivated, honed leaders to go do great things at other installations, making the Army better as a whole.”
Brandt said Soldiers should consider Fort Polk as their next duty station.
“We provide a place where Soldiers can thrive personally and professionally. Our senior mission commander and leaders from Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital are actively seeking talent and are planning a trip to Joint Base San Antonio next month,” she said, “The experience you receive at JRTC and Fort Polk makes you more marketable in the Army, there are a variety of positions available to our medical community as well as career-enhancing opportunities that may be unavailable at larger military treatment facilities.”
At BJACH, enlisted Soldiers and officers are eager to choose Fort Polk for a variety of reasons.
Capt. Kelvin Cook, chief of operations for BJACH, said he chose Fort Polk because he was looking for professional growth as a medical corps officer.
“I was fortunate enough to have served time with the U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, but have never worked in the U.S. Army Medical Command environment or a hospital setting,” he said. “After finishing my command and staff time with TRADOC at Joint Base San Antonio, I came across this position as the chief of operations here at BJACH. I immediately scheduled for an interview and decided this is where I wanted to be. I am a firm believer that it is all about what you make of your environment. I feel most opinions of this area stem from participants of former training rotations. I have been thoroughly impressed with the installation thus far and the opportunities that are available here.”
Cook said the quality of life initiatives at Fort Polk were unexpected.
“You can tell that funding has really been pushed to increase the quality of life that the post has to offer,” he said. “I never would have expected to find so many amenities here such as a high quality turf field for sports, a plethora of swimming pools, batting cages, fishing ponds, and more. That was honestly a huge surprise to me.”
Lt. Col. Alexander Ragan, installation director for psychological health and the chief of behavioral health at BJACH, said others should consider JRTC and Fort Polk because of the great community, high quality health care, supportive resources and the opportunity to make a difference.
“I chose Fort Polk because I love southern culture and small towns. I was very interested in working with an installation that had rotational training like JRTC,” he said. “Working at a smaller military treatment facility, like BJACH, gives me opportunities to lead at multiple levels as an officer. Working closely with stakeholders in the surrounding community and across the installation is also a key to success.”
While stationed at BJACH, Ragan plans to apply what the Army has taught him to provide ready reliable behavioral healthcare across the installation for those seeking help, reinforcing prevention efforts and providing specialty and emergency care when necessary.
Staff Sgt. Carlos Constantino, noncommissioned officer in charge of the BJACH Pharmacy, said he chose Fort Polk because it was a great move for his family.
“As long as I have my family with me, I am happy at any duty station. This was a great choice for my wife,” he said. “After following me around the world for the past 13 years, I wanted to make a move that would help her career. She has been working remotely for a company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Now that she is only a few hours away, now she can attend seminars and training events with her organization in person.”
Constantino said he’s enjoying BJACH so far.
“I've met more of the staff in just a few weeks here than I did the entire three and a half years I was assigned to a larger MTF,” he said. “This is my first time being the NCOIC of the department without someone else expected to fill the seat in a few months. I'm grateful for the opportunity to grow as a leader.”
Constantino said BJACH is great place for Soldiers to blossom personally and professionally.
“The best Soldiers know that the greatest opportunities come by taking on the tasks and roles that no one else wants and knocking them out of the park," he said. "Fort Polk is a proving ground. It is an opportunity to show your strength, skill, and dedication to the mission.”
Capt. Maria Ong, clinical staff nurse in the mixed medical surgical ward, said living close to family in Shreveport motivated her to choose an assignment at BJACH.
“I appreciate working at a smaller MTF because you get to know everyone, including people outside your immediate workplace,” she said. “While I’m here, I plan to improve my Soldier skills and further my education. The command at BJACH is supportive of our success.”
Jennifer Garrison, chief of military human resources for BJACH, said enlisted personnel and officers can select Fort Polk as their duty station of choice.
“When Officers are within their movement cycle, they are able to view all available requisitions in the Assignment Inter-active Module 2.0 (AIM 2.0) Marketplace. Selecting JRTC and Fort Polk as their one-for-one preference gives the officer the greatest chance of being chosen for assignment,” she said. “Enlisted Soldiers also have the opportunity to select an assignment here, however, the process is slightly different. They can preference JRTC and Fort Polk as their duty assignment through the Assignment Satisfaction Key – Enlisted Module (ASK-EM) marketplace and compete for available openings. Once a Soldier completes their preferences in ASK-EM, an algorithm will match them with their preference along with the needs of the Army.”
Garrison said first term Soldiers in their reenlistment window can also discuss assignment availability at Fort Polk with their retention NCO.
Cook said BJACH is the place to be for medical officers and NCOs.
“I would recommend this assignment if you are looking for the next step in your professional growth,” he said. “This facility has some real professionals that are passionate about their work, both in the patient care and administrative side of our service. If someone asked me why they should come here, I would tell them to challenge themselves with the experience and give it an honest chance.”
Editor’s Note: To learn more about the JRTC and Fort Polk winning the fight for talent initiatives visit: https://home.army.mil/polk/index.php/my-Fort-Polk/newcomers/winning-fight