Above: Fort Drum officials welcome a delegation of New York state senators Sept. 20 for a daylong tour of the installation. With stops at the Baker Weapons Training Facility, the Medical Simulation Training Center and the 10th Combat Aviation’s flight simulation facility, the group was briefed on the technologically-advanced and realistic training designed to make 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers mission-ready. Left: Brig. Gen. Lori Robinson, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commanding general for support, speaks with State Sen. John Brooks. (Photos by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Fort Drum hosts tour for state senate delegates
Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Sept. 22, 2021) – Fort Drum officials welcomed a delegation of New York state senators Sept. 20 for a daylong tour of the installation.
With stops at the Baker Weapons Training Facility, the Medical Simulation Training Center and the 10th Combat Aviation’s flight simulation facility, the group was briefed on the technologically-advanced and realistic training designed to make 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers mission-ready.
An aerial tour provided additional context while discussing issues such as encroachment and wind turbine issues, but it also highlighted new developments on post – such as the future construction of new railhead facilities.
For some, this was their first visit to the home of the 10th Mountain Division (LI), and it served to orientate them on the support and services provided to Soldiers, family members, retirees and community members.
“It’s one thing to talk about Fort Drum, but it’s something you have to see with your own eyes,” said State Sen. Patty Ritchie, who has represented the 48th Senate District – including Fort Drum – since 2010. “You realize that it’s like a small city, and that can be surprising for a lot of people seeing it for the first time.”
As northern New York’s largest employer, Fort Drum injected more than $1.4 billion into the local economy last fiscal year. More than 14,000 active-duty service members with nearly 16,000 family members are stationed at Fort Drum. The Fort Drum garrison workforce includes 3,785 civilian employees and 732 contractor employees.
“What is unique about Fort Drum and what brings people back, in my opinion, is this community,” said Brig. Gen. Lori Robinson, 10th Mountain Division (LI) deputy commanding general for support. “As you see today, we are very integrated – we depend on the community and the community depends on us.”
Col. James Zacchino Jr., Fort Drum garrison commander, said that the installation is integrated by design. The construction of Fort Drum deliberately excluded schools or a hospital to foster ties between the military and civilian communities.
“It’s a little bit different than what you see at other installations,” he said. “All the children who live on Fort Drum go to school off post. We have clinics and aid stations on post, but we don’t have a hospital. Our Soldiers and family members are supported by five local hospitals outside the gates.”
Zacchino said that living at Fort Drum means being part of a larger community – the North Country – and that the bonds military families create here often become permanent.
“I’m always so amazed when I see how many Soldiers who choose to stay here when they retire,” Ritchie said. “I think that speaks volumes.”
The majority of the visiting party were members of the committee on veterans, homeland security and military affairs, chaired by State Sen. John Brooks, who represents the 8th Senate District. During a meeting with installation leaders, he said that the committee recognizes the challenges faced by veterans.
“This committee is probably, by far, the most non-political of any,” Brooks said. “All of the members are deeply concerned for your needs and appreciate the service you provide. On the veterans side, we are trying to improve their benefits, and I think we can do a better job.”
As a veteran himself, Brooks said that they also seek to better understand the issues facing active-duty service members as they transition back into civilian life.
“Being on this committee, I think it is important to have a full understanding of what we have here in New York state, and Fort Drum is obviously the preeminent military installation in the state and in the Northeast,” said Sen. Elijah Reichlin-Melnick who represents the 38th Senate District. “Being able to understand what goes on here, and all the incredible work and training that’s taking place, helps me make the best decisions in Albany.”
He said that seeing some of the training firsthand and the equipment and weaponry used by 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers was informative, but the time he spent speaking with them was invaluable.
“At the end of the day, certainly one of the highlights was talking with the troops,” Reichlin-Melnick said, “and having the chance to hear from them, and the stories about how they chose a military career, how they found themselves here and what they like about it.”
Ritchie said that every visit to Fort Drum is a learning experience and one she looks forward to each time.
“Even in my short tenure, it has changed, and every time I come back I learn something new,” she said. “It’s always a privilege for me to come here, and it is my biggest honor to represent the brave men and women of Fort Drum and their families.”