Military Matters: Fort Drum Expects Stability For First Time In Years

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When the U.S. entered wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division deployed from Fort Drum by the thousands.

Many of the troops' families left the north country for the stability of their hometowns.

"They've had 23 brigade deployments, five divisional deployments since the onset of 9/11. That's a lot," said Carl McLaughlin, executive director of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization.

Now that the war in Iraq is over and the U.S. is winding down operations in Afghanistan, Fort Drum is now home to approximately 18,200 soldiers.

"Fort Drum...is the economic driver of the north country.  I would say yes, things are looking very good for us," said McLaughlin.

Fort Drum actually has more soldiers on post right now than authorized by the Department of Defense.

The installation is authorized for only 16,700 soldiers.

With 18,200 troops, plus their families now living in the region, the north country is experiencing some growing pains.

Things have been even more crowded in the past.

Last January, there were 19,600 soldiers at Fort Drum before several hundred troops began deploying overseas.

In 2013, part of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team is expected to deploy to Afghanistan.

"It's a little different mission. It's not a security mission. It's a training mission and they're going to rely on Afghan nationals and coalition forces, so it's a little different approach and I assume this is all leading up to the 2014 ultimate withdrawal," said McLaughlin.

The mission is also different in that soldiers will be gone for only nine months, which is shorter than the year-long deployments of the past.

McLaughlin thinks shorter deployments will mean more military families will stay in the north country.

"They're not going to leave in quite the numbers they have left before," said McLaughlin.  "I'm sensing stability. That's going to impact the schools. It's going to impact housing. It's going to impact the commercial operations in the area."
 

Saturday, November 22, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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