Fort Drum

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.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Every year, family and friends gather at Fort Drum to remember the soldiers who lost their lives in the past year fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tuesday, Fort Drum and Army officials thanked them for their sacrifice.

Since the September 11th terrorist attacks, 309 Fort Drum combat soldiers lost their lives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Destoinie Cormier / Save RCWP Facebook page

State Sen. Patty Ritchie has secured 185 thousand dollars in funding to treat troops and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Part of the money will go towards a program at Alexandria Bay’s River Hospital that treats Fort Drum soldiers.

The announcement comes just days after the hospital was given the ok to continue the program.

The River Hospital’s Community Wellness program was in danger of shutting its doors last month. The Army had decided to move all PTSD treatment programs back onto bases across the country.

River Hospital

A program at River Hospital in Alexandria Bay, N.Y., that treats soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will end in July. The Army issued orders to move mental health treatment onto military installations.

Ben Moore, the program’s director, said his staff successfully treated more than 250 soldiers with PTSD since 2012.

"I was absolutely stunned," Moore said. "I had no warning. Now we're going to have to figure out how we adapt to this.”

Julia Botero

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has extended the state's ban on outdoor brush burning until May 21. He says conditions across the state are still too dry.

This week may have been a wet one here in central and northern New York, but until this latest round of storms, grasses and fields have been dry and several fires have been reported across the region. So, firefighters at Fort Drum are on alert.  

“With spring comes initial dryness. Even though the rain is coming, the vegetation on the range out there is dry,” said Kevin Hazen, who works in fire prevention at Fort Drum.

Mike Kurtz

Bases across the country, including Fort Drum, are stepping up security. The United States military has increased the terrorism threat level on bases from Alpha to Bravo.

2nd Battalian, Fort Drum

1st Lt. John Levulis, 25  from Eden, New York,  was traveling in a military convoy the evening of May 1 when a car collided with his Humvee carrying three other soldiers.

The four soldiers, members of  the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, were traveling to  Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst near Trenton, New Jersey for military training at the time of the crash.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) says she is in full support of the way the military is handling sexual abuse cases. Her comments in support of the military justice system are in opposition to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) accusations that the Pentagon refuses to acknowledge the scope of the crisis. 

Linda Garett / Fort Drum ACUB Program

Fort Drum has grown tremendously over the last decade. There are more soldiers working – and training – on its grounds. Fort Drum planners have been concerned new development just outside the base may come into conflict with that training mission. The base is paying property owners to keep their land undeveloped. A family dairy farm in Rutland, just south of Fort Drum, has struck the largest deal yet.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

All units at Fort Drum will likely deploy overseas within the next 13 months. That’s according to the military base’s new commanding general, Maj. Gen. Jeffery Bannister. He sat down with local reporters last week to address what’s in store for soldiers stationed at Fort Drum. 

Bannister said the changing nature of the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan is changing  the way troops are deployed  at Fort Drum.  They will still go to those countries but they will also go to other strategic locations around the world.  

Julia Botero

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited Fort Drum Monday afternoon. The base was the second stop on the secretary’s first domestic trip outside Washington since taking office just over a month ago.

Carter assured a room of 10th Mountain Division soldiers that Fort Drum isn’t going anywhere.

Ash Carter / via Flickr

The newly-appointed secretary of defense will visit Fort Drum and Syracuse University's veterans institute early next week, WRVO has confirmed.

It will be Secretary Ash Carter's first domestic trip since taking over at the Pentagon, according to Stars and Stripes, which first reported the trip.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Maj. Gen. Jeffery Bannister has officially become the new commanding general of the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, after a change of command ceremony on post Wednesday. 

Soldiers and a small audience stood at attention as the 10th Mountain Division band honored outgoing commanding general Maj. Gen. Stephen Townsend with ruffles and flourishes and a gun salute.

courtesy Justin Blodgett

During the wartime periods of American history, including the last decade, life in the military could be a career.  With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan officially over, and with troop cuts looming, the Army is sending soldiers a message - start thinking about your civilian life.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Several thousand Fort Drum backers sent a loud message to the Pentagon Friday. They said the Army base near Watertown should be spared from deep cuts as the military downsizes after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army brass toured Fort Drum and the region as they near the end of a review of 30 installations to determine where to cut.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro), John Katko (R-Camillus), Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld) and Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook), were in Clayton Thursday evening for a private reception to welcome Pentagon officials to the North Country. The four members of Congress are working together to defend Fort Drum from dramatic cuts.

Julia Botero / WRVO

The Defense Department is taking another hard look at the size of the Army, including at Fort Drum. Defense cuts fueled by sequestration requires that the Army cut 20,000 troops every year for the next three years. Fort Drum could lose as many 16,000 soldier and civilian jobs in that time. Fort Drum is gearing up for what’s called a listening session this Friday with hopes it will save them from the full cuts.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

The three members of Congress that represent upstate New York From the North Country, through central New York, to the Southern Tier, are making a case for a regional defense symmetry. Reps. John Katko, Richard Hanna and Elise Stefanik toured upstate military facilities together Tuesday, to put the focus on potential federal budget cuts that could hurt bases in their districts.

More Fort Drum soldiers will deploy to Afghanistan

Feb 27, 2015
Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

More Fort Drum troops got official orders to ship off to Afghanistan. They will leave this spring and summer. 

Over 1,600 soldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team will do one of three things in southern Afghanistan: One, protect U.S. forces on bases; two, serve as staff with the Train Advise Assist Command unit; or three advise the Afghan National Army and police.

General Atomics Aeronautics

A small group of soldiers from Fort Drum’s 10th Combat Aviation Brigade will be the first from Fort Drum to deploy to Afghanistan this year. The unit will operate new Gray Eagle drones as part of the new mission in that country.  

Only ten units in the Army can  operate these drones. Fort Drum's Delta Company is one of them.  Major Josh Jacques  is a spokesmen for Fort Drum.  He says the Gray Eagles will act as the eyes for ground troops in Afghanistan.

Dougtone / Creative Commons License

The Department of Defense has drafted a new budget that includes $19 million for Fort Drum in 2016.  The money would go towards building a training academy on the base. But, the Pentagon budget still needs to be approved by a Congress wary of overspending.

The academy would be for non-commissioned officers – the junior leaders of the Army.  There, soldiers who want to advance their careers can learn  the basics of leadership, communication and management.

Julia Botero / WRVO

President Barack Obama officially declared the war in Afghanistan over at the end of 2014, but he also promised to send more U. S. troops to the country to train Afghan security forces. The Army has not identified who those soldiers will be, but leaders with Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division are confident they will be among the first to head back to Afghanistan.

Dougtone / Creative Commons License

Early on in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address, he took a few moments to  thank  the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division. The soldiers received  the longest applause and the only standing ovation during his speech.

"The 10th Mountain Division is the most deployed force since 9-11. Just think about that -- 323 soldiers have been lost by the 10th Mountain Division defending our freedom," said the governor.

Cuomo called Fort Drum  a great North Country asset.

IAVA

 

The Pentagon has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help struggling soldiers, but numbers show these efforts have done little to stop the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day.

President Barack Obama has vowed to do more to stop what he has called "an epidemic" of suicides in our military.

There is a bill in Congress that aims to provide more mental health services to veterans, but some think it won't do much.

Julia Botero / WRVO

 

Since 2001, more active-duty American soldiers have killed themselves than were killed in Afghanistan.

President Barack Obama acknowledged the soaring suicide rate in the United States military in a speech in North Carolina last summer. Obama said, "We have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans. As a country, we can't stand idly by on such tragedy, so we're doing even more.”

Julia Botero / WRVO

Fort Drum commemorated the end of its combat role in Afghanistan Monday. Most of the 10th Mountain Division is now back for the holidays, but the U.S. Army will continue its mission in Afghanistan.

At Monday's welcome home ceremony, Annie Costellano-Rios chats with two women as they wait for band to start up. Her husband is a 10th Sustainment Brigade commander - the most recent to deploy to Afghanistan and one of the last to return.

"I'm glad they are home," Costellano-Rios said. "It was a long nine months, or 10 months actually, wasn't it?"

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