Fort Drum sees decade of physical changes
September 8, 2011
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- For the past 10 years, Fort Drum's landscape -- specifically the training area, housing and mission-essential infrastructure -- has been overhauled, upgraded and expanded to align with the current overseas contingency operations.
In the months following the Sept. 11 attacks, Fort Drum began to expand training capabilities and resources to meet the mobilization and training need, as well as the needs of theater-specific missions.
Fort Drum personnel began focusing on small-unit tactical training and what was required to enhance and expand the training ranges, as well as the resources required to meet those training needs as they evolved, said Joe Wood, Training Division chief.
Post personnel realized training should be focused on small-unit tactics, such as entering and clearing buildings. And, with the advent of the improvised explosive device, units must learn to defeat the devices, so training resources and assets were developed that would help Soldiers prepare for various kinds of scenarios.
"(Before) 9/11, we were prepared for major conflict. We were training for full-spectrum operations, or mission-essential tasks, units preparing for war, such as a major conflict on a continent or somewhere else in the world," Wood explained. "Training was more focused toward a larger scale."
Up until 9/11, the primary focus of the Army was peacekeeping operations. "Since that kind of training was going on, we didn't really focus on unit attack and small-unit tactics that were necessary to defeat insurgent operations," Wood noted.
To meet that need, structures began popping up throughout the training area, which is located northeast of main post.
"On any given day, (we) have anywhere from 3,500 to 9,000 Soldiers in the training area, so you have to have multiple levels of facilities so more than one unit can train at a time," Wood said.
Fort Drum's training area is equipped with three types of urban live-fire facilities.
Since 2005, Fort Drum has built three shock-absorbent concrete shoot houses, which allow units to fire live ammunition during training. Each SACON house, which is about 2,500 square feet, replaced old wooden shoot houses.
These structures are designed to replicate buildings with compartmentalized rooms and hallways, so Soldiers can use them to practice how they would enter and clear a building and efficiently secure the facility, Wood explained.
One of the shoot houses is fully automated, meaning it has video and audio capability, used in after-action reviews.
Also built in the training area is Dodge City, a 10-station Military Operations on Urban Terrain assault course, and two live-fire villages, consisting of multiple structures to accommodate various training scenarios.
The training area also houses four types of urban sites, which are used for village scenarios and training.
The first village, built in 2005, is a metal mobile MOUT village, which consists of 45 structures with third-world facades, mosques, a market and walled compound.
"When you design the training, it can't be just for one country because we're not going to always be in one country; we're going to be all over the world," Wood said. He describes the villages as "universal, with a third-world flavor."
There is another MOUT site, located on Swift Road, which consists of 24 wooden structures, including a mosque and a market.
Fort Drum personnel built another village, the Sterlingville Urban Sprawl, which consists of eight wooden structures and a market laid on a road intersection. Soldiers use this area for checkpoint and other training operations.
The fourth site, the Afghanistan Village Complex, is a MOUT consisting of 35 container structures simulating an Afghan-style village divided into two separate walled compounds.
Woods said they focused on replicating an Afghan village because "(Afghanistan) is a large theater and we've been there for over 10 years."
There is also an urban training facility in the training area, called the Combined Arms Collective Training Facility. It is a city of 30 structures, equipped with an after-action review facility, flight landing strip, fenced military compound, dispersed roadside structures and smaller compounds.
In addition to the facilities in the training area, there are facilities, called brigade combat team MOUT sites, in the cantonment area, next to the brigades' barracks and headquarters.
"That allows (Soldiers) to go right out the back door and train on their urban tasks, without having to go out to the range," Wood explained.
"All (of) these facilities were built and designed and are configured to help the Soldiers train in those tasks that they have to accomplish before they have to deploy," he continued.
Training area design and resources are based on feedback from commanders, he added.
Wood said they are constantly evolving and changing the training area facilities.
In addition to the ranges, the Training Division also introduced Soldiers to virtual trainers and simulators, which are used for mission command necessities, battle tracking and better command and control.
"All of those things have to integrate and synchronize, so we can give the units the resources they want, so they can train to the (desired) level before they go into theater," Wood noted.
He added that the use of the structures varies depending on deployment cycles, such as where the units are in the Army Forces Generation cycle, and what training assets are required for the upcoming mission.
While buildings were popping up in Fort Drum's training areas, large infrastructure designed to house Soldiers and Families were being built in the cantonment area.
Since 9/11, nearly 1,400 homes have been built on post, adding to the existing 2,270 housing units on Fort Drum.
In addition, more than 190 senior noncommissioned officer and junior officer apartments, known as the Timbers, were built on post, providing about 320 spaces for Soldiers.
On-post housing in the permanent party barracks reached an additional 3,696 spaces since 9/11, with 560 more spaces that are currently under construction, explained Jeffords Hewitt, Single Soldier Housing Branch chief.
Hewitt noted the influx of housing was mostly based on a market analysis, which evaluates the availability of housing for Soldiers stationed at Fort Drum.
"The increase in total permanent troop strength and the availability of on-post and market housing played a part in the new homes built on post. And certainly the Army's 'Grow the Force' Initiative played a significant role in the construction of new barracks as well," he said.
Other significant changes to post infrastructure, while they might not have been in reaction to the global war on terrorism, have occurred in the past 10 years.
On Sept. 27, 2004, the 10th Mountain Division (LI) officially transformed into the Army's new modular format. With the new modular format came the standing up of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which meant the beginning of a "shell game" to fit three infantry brigades into two footprints.
The 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, which grew from three battalions to five battalions, moved from North Post out to Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield by 2006.
"The intent behind that was to get 10th CAB out to where their main operations are at the airfield," explained Brian Appleby, chief of the Master Planning Division. "It didn't make much sense to have their complex back on North Post, where they had to drive five or six miles to their workplace."
The 10th CAB's move freed up building space to be used by the BCTs, Appleby added. They started backfilling 10th CAB's spaces with 3rd BCT, and as time went on, 1st BCT moved into that space.
To alleviate facility shortages during transformation, about 90 modular buildings were added to meet short-term mission needs until permanent facilities were constructed.
In 2007, several projects began to construct three distinct footprints, one for each infantry brigade combat team, and by the end of 2008, units were moving into their new permanent facilities.
Projects are usually planned at least five years out before they actually break ground. Project approvals are dependent upon funding, Appleby explained. Transformation shortened the process to about three years and also began the process of standardizing facilities.
Since 2001, Fort Drum has added more than 5,750,000 of square feet of building space, either through the construction of new buildings or additions to existing buildings.
Currently, facilities on post total about 17,385,000 square feet.
It's misleading to note how many buildings have been added in the past 10 years because, during that time, old buildings have been torn down, explained Richard D. Nuijens Jr., real property accountable officer and chief of the Real Property Branch.
Appleby said it's important to continue to build new buildings and upgrade the infrastructure because the facility standards and mission requirements change over time.
"One example is that a company headquarters' old standard used to be about 5,000 square feet per company. Now it's well over 14,000 square feet," he explained. He said this is partly because companies in legacy facilities are short on TA-50 storage space.
"The reason we need to continue our construction is to build out our facility deficits to provide standardized facilities so everyone has the same uniform working conditions," he added.
Advances in technology over the past 10 years have driven some projects.
An example of this is the increased communications requirements for brigade headquarters. They now require a brigade operations center, network operations center and the sensitive compartmented information facility. These buildings support commanders' communication with units in training and in battle.
"As these standards change, we have to evaluate what we have on the ground, versus what the standard requires," Appleby explained. "Then we start programming projects to make up the differences. Sometimes we have to replace a facility, sometimes we have to add onto it and add more capability to it."
The Master Planning Division is working on about 20 projects, which are either in construction now or in the future years' defense program through fiscal year 2017.