Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization

Fort Drum & 10th Mountain Division / Flickr

President Donald Trump is committing more troops to Afghanistan, and that could include some soldiers from Fort Drum.

Brian Ashley with the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization says Fort Drum has been a fixture in Afghanistan since the beginning of what has become America's longest war.

"The 10th Mountain Division was essentially the first unit on the ground into Afghanistan back in 2001 and we were among the last elements - in terms of combat - to leave Afghanistan," Ashley said.

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Despite continued downsizing at Fort Drum, the base's impact on the local economy actually increased in 2016.

The northern New York army base spent nearly $1.2 billion dollars last year. That's down by about $300 million from 2015 with most of those cuts from payroll. That influx of money indirectly supported about $400 million in economic activity across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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Supporters of Fort Drum are coming out in full force to prevent the North Country installation from losing more soldiers. The fears come from the United States Army's proposal to reduce troop levels to pre-World War II numbers.

State Sen. Patty Ritchie's office has been working with the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization to gather more than 9,000 signatures in support of keeping jobs at the base, which she says pumped about $1.4 billion into the local economy last year.

The U.S. military is in the process of cutting almost half a trillion dollars from its budget over ten years. The Pentagon says the cuts will lead to a more agile force with a new strategic mission. A new Army report weighs alternatives for restructuring that could affect Fort Drum. Under one scenario, the post could see an increase of 3,000 soldiers, but under another, it could lose up to 8,000 soldiers and 15 percent of its civilian workforce.