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Fort Drum’s future

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The north country has a clear message tonight for Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend and the Department of Defense — we have supported Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division since the decision was made to reactivate the 10th at Fort Drum in 1984. Gen. Townsend will preside over the Programmatic Environmental Assessment process and listening session for community input at Case Middle School at 5 p.m. on the possibilities of expansion or reduction of the number of soldiers assigned to Drum.

The community’s and New York state’s support of Fort Drum since the stationing has been an invaluable help to the Army as the 10th became the most deployed division in the Army.

The nearly 30-year-old story of community support began with the rapid expansion of the city of Watertown water supply system, a new water line to Fort Drum and a return line for sewerage to be delivered to Watertown’s processing facility. Projects financed and built by the community.

Watertown and five other villages and towns hosted Section 801 apartment complexes to house thousands of soldiers and their families.

Our medical care facilities were expanded to relieve the Department of Defense of the need to provide an on-base hospital. The first-class school systems surrounding the base expanded to accommodate off-base education of the children of soldiers.

The community hosted soldiers and their families as their own. The Adopt-a-Platoon program was conceived and implemented here in Watertown by a dedicated cadre of local leaders and volunteers. The Association of the U.S. Army worked tirelessly to introduce soldiers and families to the great pleasures available in the community.

As the division was deployed to fight America’s wars, those left behind were welcomed into the community to help reduce the stress and fear of wartime separation. When the brigades returned home, the community joined the celebration cheering the men and women marching into the arms of their children.

As the Department of Defense invested in Fort Drum to accommodate the division, the community and state relieved much of that pressure by spearheading a relentless quest for new, quality affordable housing. The medical community worked exceptionally hard to provide excellent care for the battle weary.

Highways around Fort Drum were improved including a high-speed link from Interstate 81 to the main gate. As Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield expanded the community focused on solving encroachment issues to assure the army that its air operations and training missions could go on without negative impacts outside the boundary of the base.

The community has said yes to the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division, has said yes to the Army and has said yes to America by providing a cost-effective base in the community, which allows world-class soldiers to be trained to accomplish their missions.

We are ready to support expansion at Fort Drum. The facilities needed for growth are here. However a reduction in force will compromise the soldiers left behind because the ability of the community to support them in the style we have demonstrated since 1984 and a style the Army depends upon will be challenged.

We are ready for the Fort Polk battalion to come home to Fort Drum. We are ready for expanded and reorganized battalions. We are ready to be home of a missile defense system to protect the Northeast United States from rogue countries like North Korea.

We have produced, and we will again when given the chance.

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