FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Since the formation of the 10th Mountain Division during World War II, its Soldiers have taken great pride in being a part of one the Army's most elite expeditionary forces.
To this day, they stand ever-ready to go "where others dare not go," securing freedom and bringing stability around the world.

Fort Drum leaders recognize that the readiness of the force begins by ensuring that all members of the Army Family receive the support that they need to grow and thrive. Accomplishing this is no easy task -- especially in a fast-moving division like the 10th Mountain.

To gain a clearer understanding of the challenges that Fort Drum Family Members face and to provide them with an opportunity to share their experiences and suggestions, division and garrison leaders hosted a Spouse Town Hall on Tuesday at the Commons.

Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander, opened by thanking the Soldiers and Family Members for their dedication.

"Your spouses -- and you -- are serving your nation, and your contributions and sacrifices matter," he said. "They are threads in the very fabric of readiness."

Piatt said that Fort Drum leaders are committed to ensuring that Soldiers and Families are well cared for -- beginning before they arrive on the installation and continuing throughout the duration of the time they are stationed at Fort Drum.

"We have a great division, we have a great North Country community and we have a wonderful garrison filled with people who want to help our Soldiers and Families," he said. "We have great programs, we have great people who are providing those programs, and we have Soldiers and Family Members who need those programs."

During the Town Hall, subject-matter experts from U.S. Army Medical Department Activity, Army Community Service and Fort Drum's Personnel Services Branch spoke about the support resources their organizations provide. They asked that community members share feedback on the programs that are offered, as well as suggestions for making these resources more accessible to Soldiers and Families.

The briefings and presentations provided during in-processing are a great way of informing Soldiers and Family Members about the programs that are available to them on the installation, said Mark Oldroyd, chief of Personnel Services Branch. While spouses are invited and welcome to attend all in-processing sessions, he said that both he and the senior leaders of the installation understand that there are barriers to their ability to attend -- especially when they first arrive at Fort Drum.

Leaders are working to remove some of these barriers, and in the meantime, Oldroyd stressed that Family Members are welcome to attend any of these sessions at any time -- not just during their initial in-processing window.

During the Town Hall, one spouse spoke about the need for better communication.

"It's not that there is a lack of services -- it's that the information is not getting to the Soldier or the spouse," she said.

Piatt said that Fort Drum leaders recognize that they need to establish an effective means of connecting Soldiers and Families with the information that they need.

"That information should be pushed out to them, and it should be readily available all the time," he said.

Piatt also said that Fort Drum leaders are looking into new and different ways to reach their audience. Plans are underway to revamp current public information venues, as well as to establish new modes of communication.

"We owe it to our Soldiers and spouses to communicate in every way we can," he added. "That means multiple avenues, simultaneously, readily available and updated constantly."

One spouse said that she and many other mothers with young children find it difficult to attend the classes, briefings and tours offered on the installation.

"If you can make little snippets of information available so parents can look at them at home … it would be easier for those individuals," she said.

Piatt said that subject-matter experts are in the process of re-designing the Fort Drum website to make it more user-friendly, and they are working to build an app that will ensure information is available to all members of the Fort Drum community any time of day.

"For the spouse who wants to attend the briefings -- we are going to make that available," he said. "For the spouse who wants to be able to find information on their phone -- we are going to make that available, too."

Piatt spoke about some of the challenges that affect military Families at Fort Drum. Sixty percent of the Soldiers currently serving on the installation have never deployed before.

As they are called upon to do so in the future, he said that it is essential that they and their Families are aware of the wealth of resources available to help them through the challenges that lie ahead.
"There are a lot of loving arms willing to wrap around them, but they don't know where to go for that support," he said.

Cynthia Piatt also addressed attendees, sharing her experiences during her time as an Army spouse.
"Every time I have moved, I feel like I have entered a community that is already in place and I really don't know what I don't know," she said.

She spoke about the importance of getting involved on the installation and of reaching out to family readiness group leaders, as well as to representatives from Fort Drum's support organizations.
"We have the answers -- we really do," she said. "It's just a matter of getting you the proper information."

Cynthia Piatt said that while working groups and brainstorming sessions have led to many ideas, senior leaders need feedback from spouses.
"We are listening and we can make changes," she said. "It doesn't end here today -- this is the start."

Fort Drum community members who are interested in continuing to provide feedback and affect change are invited to join focus groups by searching Fort Drum Communications on Facebook.
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