Public tour teaches history of combat training at Fort Polk JRTC

'Tiger Land" is where soldiers trained during the Vietnam war on Fort Polk. (Source: KALB)

Fort Polk, LA. (KALB) Fort Polk has a rich history of Army readiness. On Saturday's public tour of the Joint Readiness Training Center people saw first-hand what it's like to be a U.S. soldier.

Shantessa Archie says it gave her and her children a greater appreciation for the military.

"They got to see what the inside of the vehicles looks like and take pictures holding the guns. You don't really know what they go through until you actually get to see things up close and see how heavy the equipment is and how hot they must get wearing the uniforms."

Various equipment was on display for photo ops and everyday civilians even had the chance to shoot a 50 caliber machine gun. But the main attraction, 'Tiger Land, a 1960's compound that mimicked a Vietnam village complete with huts, swamps, and booby traps. Soldiers like Texas native Larry McCabe trained there before deploying.

"Tt helped considerably because you knew what to look for..you'd stumble upon the tunnels (in Vietnam). They were so well hidden, some of them you had to go underwater to get into. So you had to watch where you were at, what you were doing.

McCabe hasn't seen Tiger Land in 49 years. Although the training was realistic, he says nothing compared to boots on the ground in Vietnam.

"It's a completely different world that you get dropped into. You have to survive, that's your main priority, to survive and make sure your buddy on each side survives too."

Ed Farris, President of the National United States Armed Forces Museum is in the business of making sure the rest of the country doesn't forget about its military history. Farris has been involved in the museum since 1999. He says taking Veterans down memory lane is what he loves about his job. "Vets get to see artifacts and equipment they actually used when they were in military service or seeing pictures where they served that aren't there anymore. That actually brings back a lot of happy memories, it's not the conflict, it's the men and women that they served with and they go back and reminisce."