By 1st Class Adora Gonzalez, 10th Mountain Division PAO NCOICMay 4, 2017
ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York state officials honored Soldiers during the sixth annual 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum Day on Tuesday at the New York State Capitol in Albany.
First organized in 2012 by Sen. Patty Ritchie of New York's 48th District, the event included static displays of military gear and up-to-date equipment and an address in the senate chamber by the division's commanding general, which is an honor for an unelected official.
This event was the first for Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, since taking command of the light infantry division less than a week ago.
Although Piatt is new to the position, he is no stranger to the North Country, as this is his third time stationed in New York at Fort Drum. His children attended and graduated from New York state schools and grew up in the area, so Piatt personally understands and appreciates the unwavering support of the community and its unique relationships with our military Families.
"We actually feel like part of the community," Piatt said. "The community is intertwined with us as a very vested interest in the success and care for our Soldiers, and we could not do it, we could not meet our mission for the United States without the North Country community, just plain and simple."
What sets Fort Drum apart from all other Army posts is its reliance on the surrounding community. While most Army posts have schools, hospitals and an adequate supply of housing, Fort Drum does not, and it's the local communities within Jefferson County and neighboring counties that provide these services and facilities to meet the needs of each individual Soldier.
"We want to do whatever we can to help. You're not only a fantastic ally, you're actually one of the biggest economic engines in the state of New York. It is an operation that is really second-to-none," said Sen. John J. Flanagan of New York's 2nd District, temporary president and majority leader, during a brief introduction of Piatt to senate members.
"When there's a problem nationally, the government calls the Army, and when the Army has a real problem, they call Fort Drum," Flanagan said. "They're the go-to people, and on behalf of our conference, certainly I want to welcome you. With Sen. Richie, you could not have a better ally in your corner."
As New York state's largest, single-site employer, Fort Drum helps to bolster the local community's economy into the billions every year through payroll, medical and federal monies to schools, but with the 10th Mountain Division's distinction as one of the most deployed since the war on terrorism, the relationship is mutually beneficial with an outpouring of community support to military Families throughout frequent deployment cycles.
During his address in the New York Senate Chamber, Piatt delivered an overview of the division and the post, the support of the North Country community and the successes that have been accomplished mainly due to funding and policy support from state officials. He thanked them for their contributions and shared the way ahead for the 10th Mountain Division (LI).
"We have to be ready for future land conflicts that will be more lethal than we have seen in the past 20 years," Piatt explained. "Our Soldiers have to be ready to fight the future fight that is unknown with methods we haven't even developed yet with technology not even invented, and we need to do that at installations like Fort Drum.
"Our housing, our headquarters, our base is beautiful, but it's our training area that makes us relevant," he continued. "We've got to build readiness. This is the No. 1 priority for my former division commander and now Chief of Staff of the Army Mark Milley, but more than just being ready today, we have to be relevant tomorrow."
Piatt described how realistic training facilities at Fort Drum not only benefit our Army but our nation as a whole. He described how environments that look, smell and sound like combat are essential in military advancement and readiness.
"The first time Soldiers see combat should not be the first time they face the enemies of our nation. We've got to prepare them for tomorrow, and the only way I can do that is I've got train them hard today," Piatt said. "And that requires a really first-class installation, which all of you have helped us achieve, but I'm asking for your continued support because we've got to continue to improve it to the future."