7 News Special Report: Fort Drum's Deployments & Future

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By Diane Rutherford

The 10th Mountain Division's service started in the early 1990s.

A small group of soldiers were sent to support the Army as part of Operation Desert Storm.

In 1992, the troops were integral in humanitarian efforts - aiding in Hurricane Andrew relief. 

Throughout the rest of that decade, Fort Drum soldiers would serve overseas in countries like Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia.

The dawn of a new century brought with it new enemies and new challenges - the beginning of the war on terror and the division's non-stop deployments in two wars.

25 years after its rebirth, the 10th Mountain Division now leads the charge in the wars overseas as one of the most deployed divisions in the U.S. Army.

It's not uncommon to meet a soldier that has served two or even three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"I frankly think you can pick up these lighter organizations and move them around the battlefield pretty fast and I think that's why we got involved like we did," said 10th Mountain Division Commander Major General James Terry.

Changes at Fort Drum and at the Pentagon helped the 10th Mountain Division become the fast deploying Army force it is today.

On post, the construction of Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield allowed for rapid transport of soldiers.

"Fort Drum got this huge army airfield that has really made it have a global reach in a very convenient and safe way," said Keith Caughlin of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization.

In 2004, the Army reconfigured its fighting units into more cohesive brigade combat teams.

The 10th Mountain Division of today is much different than its 1985 counterpart.

But some things have stayed the same, like traditions started in those early years.

Former division chief of staff Mike Plummer calls it the spirit of the 10th - training strong soldiers and strong leaders.

"It's like a puppy. How you train that puppy determines how well that puppy hunts," said Plummer.

Today, that training philosophy continues.

"Develop leaders. That's our insurance policy for the future of the Army. You go around the United States Army right now, anywhere, and I guarantee you you're going to find a great sergeant or officer wearing a 10th Mountain combat patch," said General Terry.

So, what does the future hold for the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum?

There will certainly be challenges.

The  community will  have continue to work to keep Drum off federal cut or closure lists.

When the wars end, all of our soldiers will, presumably, be living here at home in the north country - something that hasn't happened in years.

"We have a lot more families so we're going to have housing issues come up again," said Caughlin.

But there's also room for more growth.

Right now, one of the 10th's brigades remains stationed in Louisiana, the 4th Brigade.

New York politicians have said they'd like to see that unit move to Fort Drum, an idea some people say makes sense.

"It's probably more political reasons that it won't than common sense reasons why it should," said Plummer.

"I think it could grow, but there is no pending decision out there that I know of," said Terry.

Whether or not Drum continues to grow, it will remain the focal point of the north country, providing our communities with thousands of neighbors, providing our residents with thousands of jobs and providing that sense of pride that goes along with knowing after 25 years the 10th Mountain Division is one of the most respected and utilized fighting units in America.    

See Part 1

See Part 2
 

Monday, November 24, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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