By Jason B. CutshawApril 9, 2009
Fort Drum welcomed a special guest Monday when U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York made her first official visit to the North Country post. During her visit, Gillibrand received a briefing from members of the command group about missions 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers are performing at Fort Drum and around the world. She also received an overview of the installation and its relationship with surrounding communities. Key leaders present were Brig. Gen. Kevin W. Mangum, 10th Mountain Division (LI) rear commander; Col. Kevin Brown, deputy to the 10th Mountain Division (LI) rear commander; Col. Kenneth H. Riddle, Fort Drum garrison commander; and Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Andrews, Fort Drum garrison command sergeant major. "Senator Gillibrand is very interested in and impressed with all that we are doing at Fort Drum," Mangum said. "We had the opportunity to brief her on what our units are doing, both those in the fight and those preparing for their next deployment. She is particularly interested in the demands and stress on our Soldiers and Families." After meeting with members of Fort Drum leadership, Gillibrand met with Soldiers and Family Members to discuss issues that are important to them. "She definitely did seem very concerned about deployment issues, communication, what kind of support networks there were for spouses and Soldiers when (troops) got deployed," said 1st Lt. Trevor Rafferty, 514th Maintenance Company executive officer. "She did sound genuinely concerned, and it was really nice for us (to be able) to say anything that was bothering us." While talking with Gillibrand, one Family Member commented about how easy it was to speak with the senator and how she engaged those present. "She seemed very concerned with issues and intended to seek action on them," said Jennie Pickett, wife of Capt. Josiah Pickett, 2nd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment rear detachment commander. "It was really pleasant and open. Everyone seemed very comfortable meeting with her, and she seemed sincerely interested in them. "She was very serious about deployment cycles and how long people were (home) in between deployments. And how the spouses fared during those deployments," Pickett added. "She genuinely wanted to know what the spouses not only did, but also what they would like to see in the area as well." Before leaving for a visit to Watertown, Gillibrand spoke about how impressed she is with Fort Drum and the dedication Soldiers, civilians and Family Members display as they perform their duties on a daily basis. "It was an honor and a privilege to have a presentation about what (you) do here at Fort Drum," Gillibrand said. "I have heard what the struggles are during deployments and what (Soldiers) have done to cope and then what their impressions have been with their missions abroad and coming home. "It was a very, very useful visit," she said. "I hope to get back to Washington (D.C.) and really work hard for our Soldiers and make sure they understand they have a voice and ... the support they need to keep America safe." "(I also understand) how vibrant Fort Drum is to the local economy and how important it is for our overall mission for national security. I love the way it is integrated into the North Country and into Watertown. It is a wonderful example and model about how well our armed services do when they have a partner in the community." Fort Drum leaders also were pleased with the senator's first visit to post. "The visit was a huge success," Mangum said. "We certainly appreciate her taking the time to visit Fort Drum to learn more about who we are, what we do and how well we are supported by our neighbors and partners in the North Country. Senator Gillibrand better understands Fort Drum, our Soldiers and the demands of the current fight. "She promised to come back in the near future to spend a day or more with us," he added. "We look forward to her next visit."