Fort Johnson reaches for stars with ribbon cutting

Published 8:39 am Sunday, March 3, 2024

By Porsha Auzenne | Public Affairs Office

The Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Johnson is celebrating the completion of the installation’s Department of Defense STARBASE Youth Program.

The ribbon cutting, held at Child Development Center building 744, symbolized a four-year effort between Fort Johnson, Vernon Parish and the Louisiana State University of Alexandria to improve quality of life for soldiers and families by giving local children a program which will improve their knowledge in science, technology, engineering and math in an interactive way.

DOD STARBASE is sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. The program offers students opportunities to participate in challenging “hands-on, minds-on” activities in STEM. Students interact with military personnel to explore careers and observe STEM applications in the “real world.” The program provides students with stimulating experiences at bases across the nation, according to

During the STARBASE groundbreaking Feb. 4, 2021, Tiffany Koch, Fort Johnson’s school liaison officer, discussed what the program will bring to the post.

“The students will experience activities that allow for collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking and creative problem solving,” Koch said. “They will design rockets, Mars rovers and explore how to survive in space.”

Koch said the STARBASE program will provide on site instructors, materials and mentorship opportunities from installation units.

“Our partnership is only beginning to grow. Within the next five years we plan to expand STARBASE and apply for the STARBASE 2.0 program,” she said.

Brig. Gen. David W. Gardner, JRTC and Fort Johnson commanding general, expressed how invested the installation is with the local community and how important the program is for both parents and children.

“STARBASE is what we’re doing for Fort Johnson’s kids. It is important to us as parents as well as leaders here,” Gardner said. “I am appreciative, not just as the commanding general of JRTC and Fort Johnson and someone in the U.S. Army, but as a father of kids that have been a product of local schools. I am thankful that kids in the future are going to be able to participate in this STARBASE program.”

Dr. Paul Coreil, LSUA chancellor, conveyed his appreciation in partnering with the DOD and Fort Johnson. Coreil also explained how important STEM education can be to Vernon Parish, as there are a shortage of medical professionals and science teachers in most rural areas.

“We are really focusing a lot on STEM education in an effort to entice young people into these careers,” Coreil said. “With the workforce shortages we’re seeing, it’ll only get worse if we don’t address it now. Fifth grade is a perfect place to start by getting students interested in STEM education, as well as getting them comfortable with applying knowledge learned in their day-to-day lives.”