FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Feb. 13, 2018) -- Supporting current operations around the world while training for future wars is how the 10th Mountain Division assures its Soldiers remain "ready today, relevant tomorrow."
That is the message that Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander shared with community members Feb. 9 at Jefferson Community College.
"I'm committed that Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division will be ready today, and that you can guarantee," Piatt told an audience Feb. 9 at Jefferson Community College in Watertown. "But I'm also committed that 30 years from now we are relevant as we are today and we are the place where our military will continue to train so we can prepare for future wars, and by being prepared, can prevent them."
Piatt said that the 2nd Brigade Combat Team is leading the way in the modernization of mountain warfare with some of the toughest cold-weather training on post. He also noted that more than 1,000 Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team were vital to the training of the newly-formed 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, headquartered at Fort Benning, Ga., that is preparing for its first deployment. Piatt also touted the good work Soldiers that 1st BCT is doing throughout Africa. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, are part of Task Force Darby, in a support role for the Cameroon military's fight against the violent extremist organization Boko Haram.
The 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, fresh from a deployment in Europe, is preparing for a major training exercise that will simulate an emergency deployment with combat flights staged from Vermont and eastern New York back to Fort Drum.
"We have to prepare for future fights right here on Fort Drum, and one of the reasons I have the aviation brigade preparing for this exercise in April is to demonstrate how we can do that," Piatt said. "We're not going to be able to grow more land and expand out, but we've got to use the airspace outside our installation so we can do tactical approaches in tactical formations - low-flying, so we can avoid enemy air defense assets and provide fires on terminal targets as we are going to be asked to do in combat. That's what we do - ready today, relevant tomorrow."
Piatt said that division readiness means having the ability to deploy rapidly, for which Fort Drum is well-suited.
"What makes Fort Drum so special is the fact that we can deploy from Fort Drum," Piatt said. "We have our own railhead here and can put our vehicles on rail cars and move them to any port and have them shipped anywhere in the world. We have our own airfield here ... and we can do everything right there, which means our time is really managed well and is efficient. That's critical and that makes this place extremely valuable."
Piatt said that there are currently 4,000 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldiers deployed to 15 countries, and he went into detail on 3rd Combat Brigade's current mission in Iraq.
"They literally lived in the dirt," Piatt said. "They established fire bases with artillery, pushed out dirt and protected themselves in berms. These are not the deployments where you operated from a forward operating base or a protected base in the rear area. They were on the front lines against ISIS and in pursuit of the remnants of ISIS as a former military force."
Piatt said that in the capacity of an "advise, assist and enable" mission, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team has been successful in providing Iraqi security forces with the means to deny ISIS any foothold in the country.
"They have been defeated, but not destroyed," he said. "The Iraqi people now know we've got to complete the destruction of ISIS, and that job is going to be difficult."
Piatt said that it is going to take a commitment from the Iraqi government and the international community to build the peace there and stabilize the post-conflict areas affected by ISIS control.
"We're going to continue to do our part by building security forces and training those security forces and enabling them with the intelligence and other critical assets they will need to provide the baseline security so the Iraqi people can believe that their forces will never allow this to happen again," he said.
Piatt, who was in Iraq last month, said that this story has not been fully told to the American people, who believe the Iraqi military incapable of securing their country.
"It was Iraqi soldiers who went door-to-door, street-by-street and block-by-block to kill ISIS that stayed and fought to their own demise," he said. "They mobilized and they liberated their country, and the coalition was proud to support. When you go to Baghdad today, you see a city that is rejoicing in the fact they were able to defeat such a brutal enemy."
Piatt said that a lot is asked of 10th Mountain Division Soldiers and they are able to do a lot because of the support they receive from their North Country neighbors outside Fort Drum.
"They care about our mission, and they care about our Soldiers," he said. "Our children go to the schools here, and we use the local hospitals. Everything we do on base is connected to the outside community and that has formed a strong bond over the years. Soldiers will sacrifice much because they've taken an oath. But they really do it when they know their families are living in a good place ... in a good community that really appreciates their service, and that's here."