Gates Visits Fort Polk’s Joint Readiness Training Center
By Jean Dubiel
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT POLK, La., May 4, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visited the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk today to observe training as soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky., were rotating through the training center.
Gates didn’t make public comments at Polk, but he observed a convoy moving through the mock village of Mosallah. As role players approached the vehicles offering to sell everything from fruit to the shirts on their backs, the soldiers maintained their professionalism during their training.
With role players acting as Iraqi police, soldiers and civilians, the 101st soldiers approached the village just as a crowd was gathering around a traffic accident. Angry shouts and gestures from the crowd created uneasiness as the convoy passed the scene. Soldiers experience scenarios like this played out in real life while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
While Gates observed, soldiers in training also encountered rocket-propelled-grenade and small-arms attacks, civilian casualties and crippled vehicles.
Under Gates’ watchful eye, the 101st successfully treated the “wounded,” towed their vehicle and maintained the convoy’s cohesiveness through the village.
Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commander, JRTC and Fort Polk, escorted Gates through the training area, explaining iterations and their relevancy to real-world situations.
A few soldiers were able to break away from the scenario just long enough to shake hands with the secretary before resuming their positions in the convoy.
Gates visited Fort Polk after a trip to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he visited with wounded warriors, their families and hospital staff at Brooke Army Medical Center.
(Jean Dubiel works at Fort Polk, La.)