By Master Sgt. Kap Kim, 10th Mountain Division PAO NCOICApril 23, 2015
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 23, 2015) -- Since Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bannister, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, last served here, the Army has gone through downsizing and restructuring. Meanwhile, sequestration continues to change future formations and the Army's ability to train and stay ahead of its adversaries around the globe.
Bannister spent time April 17 with several North Country reporters to discuss the division's current posture and what the future might hold.
A lot has changed in the four years since he last served here as the 10th Mountain Division's deputy commanding general for operations. Bannister left Fort Drum shortly after the division returned from its deployment to Regional Command-South in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the fall of 2011, and he came back to a division with all of its brigades stateside for the first time in 14 years.
Yet, he has taken command of a unit that has become the most deployed Army division in the last 14 years, and looking ahead to the global threats, he knows that title will not be lost anytime soon. He has a deep appreciation for the secondary and tertiary impacts that will have on his Soldiers, their Families, the community and the region.
Within his first few weeks in command, official deployment announcements were made for 1st and 2nd Brigade Combat Teams, and so he and his team have begun gearing up to deploy the 10th Mountain Division Headquarters again.
"As you can see, our relevancy to our nation's call is like no other division in the Army," he told reporters. "It's a vital platform for our nation."
Bannister, who understands all too well that it takes the entire Fort Drum community to complete the division's missions, drafted the charge in what he calls "Fort Drum -- What Winning Looks Like":
- Soldiers, airmen, Families and Civilians at Fort Drum provided with world-class support;
- Globally responsive, combat-ready forces manned, trained and equipped to exercise discipline initiative in support of joint combined-arms operations;
- Agile leaders who recognize and leverage opportunities, accept prudent risk and master the "Summit Six" to adapt, innovate and win;
- Mentally, physically and spiritually strong Soldiers, Families and civilian workforce;
- Vibrant regional partnership established with the surrounding North Country communities;
- Globally networked home station and scalable expeditionary mission command capabilities enabling leaders to confidently visualize, decide, direct and assess;
- Habitual multi-component, joint and allied partnerships anchored by Fort Drum as the Northeast's premier training site; and
- Dedicated installation professionals, integrated with the local community (schools and hospitals), assure Mountain success through optimized systems, processes and state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Many of the items in Bannister's charge are things the division and post have always had at the forefront of their mission statement, but he will now battle them with the current reduction in force structure and the effects that sequestration may have on the formation and services.
Yet Bannister said he is confident that Fort Drum's stature as the "poster child" for success in how an Army post lives, works and trains within its communities will continue to keep the base relevant.
"I think Fort Drum is something that is so special," he said. "We are the most integrated, unique post there is. … I've been in 33 years, and I've never seen anything like it."
Bannister referred to the following facts that set the North Country installation apart from others in the Army: Fort Drum has no hospitals, and the post has five off-post health partners that have increased their capabilities to meet Soldiers' and Families' needs; 60 percent of Families live off the installation; the post's 7,000 children attend 59 different schools throughout 18 school districts; the New York State Department of Transportation has rapidly built new routes and bridges; and monies have been earmarked to add more training area real estate in the near future.
He said the unique relationship between Fort Drum and its North Country partners has become the "model" for the rest of the Army because it saves taxpayers money.
And as money becomes the concern of the government, there is a real concern about training the force for future campaigns to avoid something history calls a "hollow Army" of having troops who are not trained or equipped properly for the global threat. With that, the decade of fighting the counterinsurgency has resulted in the Army taking a back seat to high-intensity, more decisive-action training.
"We're having to grow that skill set back, and the whole Army is doing that," he said. "We have to be ready for these hybrid threats out there."
Bannister said he's put that near the top of his things to do, but along with that, his biggest challenge yet will be to make sure the best people are chosen to go forward on deployments and the right ones remain at Fort Drum to take care of Families. Since his last time at Fort Drum, overall troop numbers in Afghanistan have changed. Thus, a brigade combat team most will likely leave behind half of its strength during a deployment.
"We're not as thick here on leadership (during deployment)," he said. "We work precisely on who we are going to leave back, because it's so important."