When we first announced that we got orders to Fort Polk, the general response went something like this:
“THAT SUCKS! Fort Polk is the worst. You guys are going to be miserable. That place is the armpit of the Army.”
Super encouraging, right?
Needless to say we headed to Polk with a sense of dread, and were braced for the absolute worst. But now, having lived in Polk for almost a year, I am happy to report that Polk isn’t that bad! In fact, it’s kind of great. Like anywhere you just have to take the good with the bad.
The bad: The base is pretty isolated, and the town right off post is small.
The good: We are completely surrounded by amazing cities that are all within driving distance. Alexandria and Lake Charles are about an hour away, Shreveport and Lafayette are two hours, Houston and Baton Rouge are three hours, and New Orleans is four. It is very cool to be able to drive in literally any direction and end up somewhere awesome in just a couple hours.
The bad: The surrounding areas don’t have as much to do as most major cities.
The good: Well first off, there is actually a solid amount to do in the area, it is just tucked away so you have to get sleuthy and find it. And secondly, it is so easy to make friends and save money. When you are forced to turn your focus from *things to do* to *people to hang out with* it is amazing how quickly you can form lifelong friendships. And it is truly beautiful how much money you save when there are limited options to spend it on.
The bad: It. Is. Hot.
The good: You don’t have to shovel sunshine! And there is something to be said for spending the dead of winter sunbathing by the pool. Growing up in New York there were a solid 3-4 months every year where it was just so cold and yucky I didn’t want to go outside. It isn’t so different here except that the reason I don’t want to go out is because of the heat rather than the cold, and we only get about 2 months of extreme heat, not 3-4.
The bad: JRTC is a nightmare.
The good: So I admit that JRTC really is the worst, but JRTC and Polk aren’t one in the same. JRTC is it’s own beast that just happened to be set up here at Polk. People stationed here don’t slum it in the box every day, they work in air conditioned office buildings and head home at 5PM just like any other base. And remember: every soldier will eventually have to go through JRTC whether they are stationed here at Polk or somewhere else entirely. And it sucks because it is JRTC, not because it is at Polk. I guarantee you it would be just as horrible an experience if it were in Hawaii or Germany.
The bad: Housing is old and gross.
The good: Fort Polk actually recently sank over 100 MILLION dollars into upgrading the housing. Some of the outsides still look rough, but most of the interiors have been completely remodeled. Sure, housing can still be hit or miss. But you know where else housing is hit or miss? Literally everywhere else on the entire planet.
So I hope this clears up some misconceptions. Getting orders to Fort Polk isn’t the end of the world, it’s an opportunity to make friends and save money and spend time in the sunshine and explore new places. I feel slightly guilty that we ranked Polk so low on our preference list: I truly love this place. It wasn’t what we asked for or wanted, but it’s what we got and it turns out it was exactly what we needed.