Fort Johnson Army Base Guide
Fort Johnson, formerly known as Fort Polk, Louisiana, is an Army base near Leesville, Louisiana.
The fort, located in Vernon Parish, is ten miles east of Leesville and thirty miles north of DeRidder. It is the home of the Joint Readiness Training Center and the U.S. Army Joint Readiness Training Center. Fort Polk was renamed in 2023 as part of a push to eliminate names from the Confederacy from U.S. military bases.
In June 2023, when ABC News ran an article about the name change from Fort Polk to Fort Johnson, the network notes, “Fort Polk was originally named after Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk, a Confederate commander.”
After the name change, the installation was redesignated Fort Johnson in honor of Sgt. William Henry Johnson, who ABC reports, was an African American World War I Medal of Honor recipient who served in the all-Black 369th U.S Infantry Regiment.
The fort was originally built in 1941 to train soldiers in mechanized warfare. Then known as Fort Polk, the installation was responsible for training operations for approximately half a million troops.
The fort was also a POW camp for a time, but after the war, the site’s usefulness was in question. It opened, closed, and reopened until the 45th Infantry Division of the Oklahoma Army National Guard began using the fort as a training site for troops headed into the Korean War.
The fort would be used similarly during Vietnam, but when that conflict ended, readiness training was backburnered in favor of maintaining U.S. armored divisions. In the 1990s, the fort inherited the Joint Readiness Training Center from Fort Chaffee, Arkansas
In the 21st century, the Joint Readiness Training Center is still at Fort Johnson. Army official sources describe the mission of the Center as “focused on improving unit readiness by providing highly realistic, stressful, joint and combined arms training…”
Fort Johnson is in Vernon Parish in West-Central Louisiana. This area, known by the locals as “The Crossroads,” is approximately 145 miles from Baton Rouge and 225 miles from New Orleans. The fort has over 100 thousand acres designated as a Wildlife Management Area
Local attractions include many family-friendly sites, including the Fort Johnson Museum, Alligator Lake Recreation Area, and Catfish Cove. If you love the great outdoors, there is more to explore here; be sure to visit Kisatchie National Forest, which has roughly six hundred thousand acres across seven parishes east of the installation.
This area features plenty of small towns and cozy communities to explore, including nearby Leesville, Anacoco, and Newllano.
Related: VA Home Loan Guide
Mission and Units
Fort Johnson holds “large-scale operations on a decisive action battlefield against a near-peer threat with multi-domain capabilities,” according to the DoD. Fort Johnson supports “globally deployable missions.” Important missions and units at the fort have included:
- A Company Tomahawks
- B Company Gators
- HHC/USAG Headhunters
- Replacement Company Pathfinders
- US Army Air Ambulance Detachment Cajun Dustoff
- 15th Combat Support Hospital
- 3rd Brigade Patriots, 10th Mountain Division
- 46th Engineer Battalion
- 519th Military Police Battalion
- 5th Aviation Battalion
In-Processing and Check-In
All troops arriving at the fort on PCS orders are directed to check in at the In/Out Processing Center, Building 250, 1716 3rd Street. This is a “one-stop facility” for in-processing, out-processing, and transitions from military to civilian life. Hand-carry all records, orders, and amendments to the Center.
There is an Installation Mandated Orientation for new arrivals. This is scheduled for Thursdays and was created “to help prepare Service members to adapt to life in the Fort Johnson community.”
Multiple Child Development Centers serve Fort Johnson. These facilities offer care for children between 6 weeks and 6 years old, Monday through Friday. Options at press time include full-day care, before and after Kindergarten care, part-day pre-school, and hourly care on a space-available base. Call 337-531-1955 to learn about waiting lists and other considerations.
Related: Military Spouse Career Support Act
Corvias Property Management operates base housing at Fort Johnson. Due to demand, waiting lists may apply for on-post housing. If you are PCSing to the area, apply for housing or get on the waiting list 90 days before PCS travel.
When you arrive at the fort, you will be given a housing application package, but before that consider calling a Corvias Resident Relocation Specialist at 337-537-5000. If you are a single or unaccompanied soldier E5 or below PCSing to the fort, you may be eligible to live on-post if you do not draw BAH.
Related: BAH Calculator
PCS and TDY Lodging
The Holiday Inn Express Magnolia House & Cypress Inn provides temporary lodging to those traveling to Fort Johnson on PCS or TDY orders. Call to make reservations at 337-531-9000. Pet-friendly rooms are not guaranteed; due to demand, these may be available in advance. Don’t assume pet-friendly facilities are available without asking in advance at reservation time.
Fort Johnson Transportation
The usual ride-sharing, shuttles, and taxis may be available when you arrive; coordinate with your sponsor to learn the best way to get to the base from the airport.
DoD literature states, “If you are on orders for Fort Johnson and plan on flying to the area, book your flight to the Alexandria International Airport in Alexandria, Louisiana. There you will find a Fort Johnson welcome desk.”
Vehicle Registration And Driver’s License
All vehicles must comply with Louisiana state law for insurance, emissions, safety equipment, and other factors.
In order to operate a privately owned vehicle at Fort Johnson, both military and civilians must register in the Defense Biometric Identification System.
Motorcyclists may be required to take special safety courses or other certifications in order to operate a two-wheeled vehicle on-post. Call 337-531-7303 for information about registering when you arrive.
Schools At Fort Johnson
There are no DoD-operated schools on post. Whether you live on or off-base, at Fort Johnson, military families typically send their children to Parkway and North Polk Elementary schools, Vernon Elementary, Leesville, Pickering or DeRidder. Attendance at one of these may depend on your zip code.
Call the Fort JohnsonSchool Liaison Office at 337-531-9481 for information on transferring students, enrolling new students, and the documentation you’ll need to provide.
Fort Johnson Colleges and Universities
The fort has several colleges with on and off-campus class options. They include:
- Central Texas College
- Northwestern State University
- McNeese State University
- Upper Iowa University
You can learn more about on-base and off-base education opportunities by calling the Education Center at 337.531.1537. The Education Center can help you learn more about your options, financial aid, military Tuition Assistance, and the GI Bill.
Related: Ultimate GI Bill Guide
Fort Johnson Contacts
Fort Johnson, LA 71459-5342
- 337-531- 0380
Important Fort Johnson Phone Numbers
- Army Community Service (ACS) (337) 531-1941
- BOSS program (337) 531-1948
- Child and Youth Services (337) 531-1955
- Emergency 911
- ID Cards and DEERS (337) 531-1891
- Library (337) 531-2665
- Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (337) 531-1979
- Operator (337) 531-2911
- Relocation Readiness Program (337) 531-6923
- SHARP Hotline (337) 531-1848
- Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-8255
- Warrior Community Activity Center (337) 531-4440
About the author
Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.