WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - As the nation faced the force of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fort Drum was not spared from quarantines and business shutdowns. But, the post didn’t let the virus define its 2020.
Fort Drum had a strong start to the year. In February, troops prepared for a new Army combat fitness test.
Sergeant Logan Putnam of the 3-71 Cavalry Regiment had already notched a perfect score and shared what it took.
“Just put forth maximum effort and it’s possible,” he said.
But like the rest of the world, when the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, Fort Drum had to adapt. That meant soldiers getting brought back from overseas early.
And a 14-day quarantine in empty barracks meant a little more time before they could reunite with family.
“We’ve only been gone 30 plus days so another two weeks is really nothing,” said Sergeant 1st Class Samuel Brown, 1st Brigade Combat Team.
Fort Drum leadership didn’t shy away from keeping the public informed about how the post was handling COVID, Whether it was Major General Brian Mennes doing video call updates with 7 News or General Brett Funck talking about students on Fort Drum getting back to school.
“I’ve got three children, really important for our kids to get back to school. But, it’s really important that we do it safely,” said General Funck, 10th Mountain Division deputy commanding general.
Barbershops and gyms on post closed and reopened.
In May, the same athletic facility that housed the combat fitness test training welcomed soldiers recovering from injury.
“I just got my cast off, like last week, and I can already see a bit of improvement when it comes to the strength in my hand,” said one soldier.
Along the way, soldiers found ways to give back like making an anonymous food donation or paying for a traveler’s bag at the airport when she couldn’t afford it.
“This soldier steps out of line. He goes up to the counter and he says, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. I got it.’ Not even introducing himself, not even saying any other word. Just simply pulled out his bank card and paid for the young girl’s bag,” said Greg Mclean, who shared the story of the soldier’s generosity.
Staff Sergeant Casey Raines’ family had their generosity get national recognition. They were named National Volunteer Family of the Year by AUSA.
“It is a huge honor, it’s a big deal. But for us, it’s just something that we do,” said Raines, 91st Military Police Battalion.
And as the year comes to a close, there’s still Christmas spirit on post - even with COVID keeping troops from traveling.
“My job is to provide the best meal that these soldiers can have, and at least try to make them feel as if they are at home. I want this to be a meal that’s home away from home,” said SSG James Gibbons, dining facility manager.
As 2020 ends, Fort Drum prepares for 2021. General Brian Mennes will be coming back from Afghanistan and there will be a change of command coming. That typically happens end of spring, early summer.