By Spc. Jerod HathawayJuly 17, 2017
In 2007, Mark H. Oldroyd, then a master sergeant in the Army, drove through the front gate onto Fort Drum for the first time. He was, like many other Soldiers, moving from one duty station to another. He drove through the gate with one of two daughters and the family cat. His wife was driving another vehicle with his other daughter. They had boxes and various household items packed into both vehicles.
With nowhere to stay at the time, Oldroyd and his family moved into a small hotel room until they could find a new home.
When new Soldiers first arrive at a new duty station, they face a multitude of challenges associated with moving to a new location as well as Army requirements that must be completed in order to successfully complete their move.
"It was a really stressful period," said Oldroyd, now the chief of personnel services branch at Clark Hall on Fort Drum, N.Y. "It doesn't matter how long you've been in the service, whether its your first time moving or your third, it is still stressful. Physically stressful, emotionally stressful and mentally stressful."
Shortly after arriving at a new duty station, Soldiers begin a period known as in-processing. It consists of briefings, Army regulation training, information about post policies, issuing the required gear Soldiers need for training and taking care of administrative requirements.
Oldroyd is someone who believes that in-processing is something greater at Fort Drum. Staff Sgt. Antonio Maddox, an in-processing cadre at Clark Hall, is another.
Maddox has in-processed a new duty station multiple times and is aware of the challenges and stressors newly-arriving Soldiers face.
"If there's something you don't understand, just go to your cadre," said Maddox. "We understand that this may be your first duty station. That's what we are here for. We want you to understand that once in-processing is complete, you need to be able to hit the ground running. You need to be ready for that."
In-processing at Fort Drum is an ever-evolving program that has seen many changes over the last few years.
Oldroyd recalled in 2013, Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, then the commanding general of 10th Mountain Division Light Infantry and now XVIII Airborne Corps and Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve, commander believed that as an Army we needed to train to standard and not time. The in-processing program at Fort Drum came under review.
Townsend brought in all the brigade commanders and command sergeants major to discuss different options and courses of action. At the time Oldroyd was the garrison command sergeant major at Fort Drum.
On one end physical fitness tests, qualifications on assigned weapons and military driver's licenses were being considered as an addition to in-processing. On the other end, a bare minimum of dealing with Soldier's finances, medical needs and issuing training gear was considered.
They agreed upon a balance of both ends.
"The first 90 days is the most at-risk time period for someone who is new to the Army," he said. "They haven't been through any of those things they are now experiencing. They can feel cut off. We connect Soldiers with their units on the first day so they can start building teams. They can start building relationships with the people they work with. They can start understanding what are the norms, what is the culture within the organization I belong to and who do I go to for help?"
At Clark Hall, the focus isn't just making sure Soldiers are successfully in-processed, there is also an emphasis on making sure Soldiers are receiving enablers and the training needed to handle the stress, Oldroyd said.
Soldiers are allowed to get their household goods delivered, get their housing set up and deal with personal priorities.
"We understand that those things that aren't on the checklist, are equally if not more important to a person as the things that are on a checklist," Oldroyd said. "Such as a mailing address or getting kids enrolled in school."
Fort Drum also invites the spouses of Soldiers to attend in-processing briefings as well.
When Fort Drum leadership discovered that only 42 percent of Soldiers were completing the first portions of the Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness training, a program designed to help Soldiers build resiliency, it was implemented into the in-processing program.
It has since become an Army regulation to complete it during in-processing for all other Army posts, Oldroyd said.
"In-processing helped me out a lot," said Pvt. Edward Moton, a newly arrived food specialist from 10th Mountain Division. "The cadre were really patient with me. I asked a lot of questions, and they helped me with getting everything done."
"I had a different opinion about what Fort Drum was going to be like. When I first got here I thought it would be stressful. It made me realize this was easier than I thought it was going to be," Moton said.
"What you are seeing now is a culmination of the last two and a half years of reconfiguring Clark Hall to add classroom space and administrative space," he said. "We have now opened up a computer lab that we didn't have last year. We have over 140 computers that we are now able to use."
Fort Drum's in-processing program now even features a bus tour, he said. During the tour, important places for new Soldiers and resources are pointed out. The tour allows Soldiers to be able to find their way around post.
"We say at the beginning of in-processing, 'Welcome to Fort Drum,'" Oldroyd said. "Well, we want soldiers to feel welcome to Fort Drum at the end of their in-processing. In order for that to happen, Soldiers have to know where things are, be enabled to do and focus on their mission, and not have to look back. That's the main goal behind in-processing."