A Year in Review: 2021 on Fort Drum

Published: Dec. 31, 2021 at 4:55 PM EST
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FORT DRUM, New York (WWNY) - There’s rarely a dull moment for Fort Drum, but 2021 was a particularly dynamic year. A new commander took the reins of the 10th Mountain Division, and the post played host to a high-profile guest. But to really tell the story of Fort Drum’s year, you have to start with an end.

It was a homecoming ceremony unlike any before for the more than 100 soldiers from the 4th Batallion-31st Infantry.

A similar celebration on September 11th for 135 military police troops.

These were the last soldiers from Fort Drum to make it back from Afghanistan after the United States ended a nearly 20-year war there.

“It’s so awesome that my family was able to come and support me. I’m super grateful for them. And I’m happy to be home,” said 1ST Lieutenant Haylie Hardy, who returned from Afghanistan.

President Biden’s plan to bring these and soldiers from across all military branches home did come under fire as Afghanistan quickly fell back into Taliban control after America’s exit.

The 10th Mountain Division started a new chapter in its own rich history.

In July, Major General Brian Mennes passed the torch to a new Division Commander: Major General Milford Beagle Jr.

“Can’t tell you how grateful I am that America sends us, me, their children,” said Mennes.

The Division’s new leader is no stranger to the post, he’s been stationed here before.

“If you had asked us to write a script on where we wanted to be three years ago when we were here last, it would be right here in this great community and in this great division,” said MG Milford Beagle Jr.

Troops had plenty of training this year on weapons big, and not so big, to stay ready to protect the country from foreign foes.

But some soldiers also pitched in to protect the community here at home.

Five soldiers quickly jumped into action in October after a Watertown accident to save someone from a burning truck.

They were later honored by Watertown’s City Council.

“The moment I saw the driver I had a moment where I was like, ‘oh my god, this happening.’ I saw nobody going. And it was just like alright, I got to go in then,” said SPC Zachary Broxson.

Fort Drum kicked off 2021 with a visit from a special guest.

In January, then Vice-President Mike Pence spoke to soldiers and community leaders on post as his last stop in office.

“You come from the rest of us. But the people of this country know, you’re the best of us,” said Pence.

This and other ceremonies on Fort Drum highlight just how close the post is with the North Country community.

It’s thanks to the work of Mike Plummer that there’s a relationship at all.

His efforts in the 80′s brought the 10th Mountain here.

But in 2021, the architect of it all said goodbye to the North Country, a place he’s called home for three decades.

“I feel very good. I can look my mother up there in the eye and say I think we made a difference,“ said Plummer.

There’s a lot of training already scheduled for 2022. First Brigade Combat Team Troops will head to Louisiana’s Fort Polk to conduct a rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center there.

And in Spring, the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team are planning Mountain Peak, which prepares them for real-world combat missions.

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