Fort Drum

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The viewers of Channel 7 evening news in Watertown will soon say goodbye to a familiar face on television. For 20 years, WWNY-TV anchor Brian Ashley has delivered the evening news every weeknight. Ashley is moving on to join the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization as its new leader.

Ashley began his broadcast career in radio while living across the border in Canada, where he's from originally. He moved onto TV in 1994 to host the evening news on Channel 7 alongside his wife, Ann Richter.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Families in the military move a lot. On average, a military child will change schools six to nine times before they finish high school. Making new friends and leaving old ones is hard on kids. Enter Sesame Street. Elmo, Cookie Monster and friends are traveling to military basis across the country to help young kids cope with a big move.

Carl McLaughlin

After a decade of lobbying state and federal officials on behalf of Fort Drum, Carl McLaughlin, has announced his retirement.

McLaughlin began his work as head of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, or FDRLO, in 2004. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were just beginning.  Fort Drum was under threat of shutting down in a round of base closures. McLaughlin got news in his first week on the job from the Pentagon about the base’s 10th Mountain Division.

Meredith Turk / NCPR

A monument that celebrates Fort Drum’s relationship with its surrounding community was revealed at a ceremony in Watertown’s Thompson Park on Friday.

The four-sided granite monument depicts the 10th Mountain Division's history starting with World War II and ending in its missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tom Doosin, an Air Force veteran who lives in Henderson, next to Lake Ontario, was there.

Missile Defense Agency

 

If you’ve ever wondered what happens at a place full of huge missiles, Nathaniel Gill with the Missile Defense Agency said on the outside it’s pretty quiet, but indoors computers pick up signals from everything being launched into the air all over the world. If a threat was on its way to the U.S., a ballistic missile kept underground will shoot into the air.

Mike Kurtz

 

A bill that will make it easier for military spouses to start working immediately after moving to the state is about to become law. New York is the only state that requires military spouses to re-apply for their professional license after arriving here.

River Hospital

River Hospital in Alexandria Bay has one of the prettiest locations of all hospitals in the North Country.  It overlooks the St. Lawrence River in the heart of the Thousand Islands. More than a decade ago, the hospital was in danger of closing for lack of funds, but hospital leaders, with help from the community, turned things around. Last week, River Hospital announced a $7 million plan to expand. 

Julia Botero / WRVO News

At the start of World War II, Fort Drum expanded. Five villages and 360 farms became part of the base’s training lands. Even the village cemeteries became Army property. Every Memorial Day, training stops on Fort Drum and descendants of those farm families can visit the graves of their loved ones buried there.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

At a rally in Watertown Saturday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump touched on his familiar campaign promises to secure the borders and boost military funding.

Trump told an enthusiastic crowd that the flow of heroin and other illegal drugs into the country would end with his proposed wall along the Mexican border. Under his administration, Trump said Watertown will get jobs back and heroin out.

As posted on the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Facebook page

The remaining soldiers on lockdown at Fort Drum were allowed to go home Thursday evening for the first time in almost a week.

Post officials had barred over 500 soldiers from leaving their offices on Friday evening when an inventory revealed a piece of Army equipment was missing. 

The night vision device still hasn’t been found.

Military police will continue their investigation into exactly when the combat and training item disappeared. It’s worth between $2,000 and $3,000  dollars.

More than a hundred Fort Drum soldiers have been barred from going home since Friday when a post official discovered a piece of Army equipment was missing. Soldiers have been kept on post for six days now.

The missing item is a night vision device used in combat and training missions. Its worth between $2,000 and $3,000.

Julie Halpin, a spokesperson with Fort Drum, says military police are looking into when and how it disappeared.

Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes

There’s a glut of housing in towns surrounding Fort Drum. With thousands of troops deployed, many houses and apartment complexes in the area are empty, including the homes on base. Now, housing on Fort Drum is available to all civilians, even those who don’t work on post.  Anyone who passes a background check is welcomed to rent a home on Fort Drum.

Joe McLaughlin is working on his sales pitch. For a thousand dollars a month, he says you can get a 2-bedroom house with an attached garage, electricity and heat included.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

A report put out by Fort Drum quantifies how much of an impact the base has on the North Country's economy. Based on military figures, the study says the base pumped more than $1.6 billion into Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties last year. 

Fort Drum is Northern New York's largest single-site employer.  More than 15,000 soldiers and close to 4,000 civilians work there. The payroll alone is more than a billion dollars. These numbers may sound staggering but last year Fort Drum pumped even more money  into the local economy. The total amount is slightly smaller this year.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

Women are now allowed to enter all combat roles in the military. Some top military brass say they believe all women should now be required to register for the draft, just like men are required to do within 30 days after they turn eighteen. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) says she’s okay with that.

The U.S. has had an all-volunteer Army for more than 40 years.

Gillibrand, who sits on the Armed Services Committee in Congress, said Monday her goal is to make sure it stays that way.

U.S. Army Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division / Flckr

Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announced Wednesday the omnibus spending bill currently in Congress includes $19 million for Fort Drum.

The federal funds included in the spending bill will go towards building a state-of-the-art NCO training academy on base. The academy will include classrooms, a running track, offices and barracks. Enlisted soldiers looking to advance their careers will use the academy to learn the basics of leadership and communication.

Julia Botero / WRVO news

More than 4,000 Fort Drum troops are on missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places around the world. We’ve heard a lot about the soldiers, but less about their families.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

President Barack Obama announced his decision Thursday to delay the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. This is a big departure from Obama’s original plan to remove almost all troops by the end of his presidency. But, Fort Drum's commanding general says he isn’t surprised by the news.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan toured Fort Drum Wednesday for the first time since becoming a state lawmaker in 2002. Flanagan was elected Senate majority leader in May when former leader Dean Skelos resigned due to his arrest on federal corruption charges. Flanagan's visit was part of a day-long tour of the North Country. 

Fort Drum soldier killed in Afghanistan

Sep 23, 2015
2nd Battalian, Fort Drum

A Fort Drum soldier died Monday in Bagram, Afghanistan. Specialist Kyle Gilbert of Buford Georgia was 24.

This is the first death of a Fort Drum soldier in this latest cycle of deployments. Combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan came to a close at the end of last year. This summer, Fort Drum soldiers began deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan this time to train and advise Afghan and Iraqi forces.

Gilbert died of a non-combat related injury. The Department of Defense says they're investigating the incident that led to his injury.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

If you’re looking to rent or buy a home near Fort Drum, now would be a good time. Apartment complexes in surrounding towns are offering special deals in hopes of filling empty units. Recent deployments at Fort Drum has help create an abundance of housing.

Last time on the Campbell Conversations, we heard from the North Country's first-term Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik.  This week, host Grant Reeher talks with the Democrat who wants to unseat her in 2016, retired Army Colonel Mike Derrick.  Derrick is getting an early start and is trying to build what he calls "a start-up" campaign.  Their conversation probes for the most important differences between the two likely candidates in the general election, and Derrick's reasons

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Veterans who’ve retired or left the Army sometimes have a difficult time transitioning back to their civilian lives. Many have trouble finding satisfying work. Others suffer from depression. In recent years, thousands of veterans have found a purpose in farming. The Cornell Cooperative Extension is introducing soldiers at Fort Drum to careers in agriculture through tours of North Country farms.

The first stop on the tour today is Windswept Farms, just outside Watertown. 

A group follows Delta Keeney past rows of her organically-grown vegetables.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

This month, two soldiers made history by becoming the first women to graduate from Army Ranger school. The course is the most exhausting and mentally demanding in the Army -- designed to create leaders who can excel amid the stresses of combat. This April marked the first time woman were admitted to Ranger School.

Capt. Michelle Kelly is the only woman from Fort Drum who qualified for the course. She didn’t pass, but she says she’s glad she tried. WRVO's Julia Botero sat down with Kelly to talk about that experience.

stefanik.house.gov

Elise Stefanik, New York's first-term congressional representative for the North Country's 21st district, is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.  At issue in her campaign last year was just how moderate the young Republican would be when she reached the chamber.  Host Grant Reeher talks with her about her record so far, what she views as her most important accomplishments, and how well Congress is currently functioning. 

Julia Botero / WRVO News

If you’re near Fort Drum around lunch time, you might notice a big pink food truck parked outside one of the base’s gates.  The Military Moms Food truck sells the kinds of meals mom used to make – like sloppy joes and grilled cheeses. And it’s kind of famous. The truck appeared last year on The Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race. Now, it’s back home serving comfort food to soldiers and fans.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

North Country lawmakers say they're relieved after hearing the news that Fort Drum will take just 28 troop cuts as a part of the Army’s downsizing.

Compare that with several thousand cuts at Fort Benning in Georgia and Fort Hood in Texas.

WRVO / File Photo

Updated at 2:20 p.m.

The official press release from Fort Drum confirms the post will lose 28 military positions.  Today's announcement from the Army does not include any reductions to civilian employees. A source says that announcement will come in the fall.  The reduction of the size of the Army is expected to be completed by fiscal year 2017.

Updated at 11:30 a.m.

Julia Botero / WRVO file photo

The Pentagon is expected to announce major cuts across the entire Army Thursday morning. Local officials and those who live in Fort Drum’s surrounding communities are waiting anxiously for news on what specific cuts will be made to the base.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

On Thursday, the Army is expected to announce where it plans to cut troops on bases around the country. Despite the looming draw down, New York state continues to invest in Fort Drum.  

State Sen. Patty Richie announced yesterday that she has secured $650,000 dollars for four hospitals that serve Fort Drum troops and their families. 

Julia Botero

 

A military lender based near New York City has agreed to stop charging Fort Drum soldiers excessive interest on emergency loans.

Matthew Anderson, with the New York State Department of Financial Services, says for over a decade, military lending companies have been charging service members more than double the state's interest rate caps.

“If you were not a permanent New York resident but were simply stationed here, the lenders took it to mean they didn’t have to comply with New York laws. They could charge higher interest rates,” Anderson said.

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