By Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public AffairsAugust 15, 2018
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (Aug. 15, 2018) -- Members of the Association of Towns of the State of New York held their annual retreat and conference in the North Country, and they visited Fort Drum on Aug. 14 to learn more about the history of this Army installation.
Their tour included stops at the historic LeRay Mansion, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum Museum and Memorial Park. The group also viewed 10th Combat Aviation Brigade aircraft and spoke with personnel at one of the hangars.
Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commanding general, welcomed them into LeRay Mansion, calling it the pride and joy of the installation.
"It's a very unique story at Fort Drum, and it doesn't get told enough," he said. "That's why these visits are so very special to me. Our boundaries around the installation is meant to keep people safe. It's meant to allow us to train and do the things we can do to prepare for wars, but we open up our installation often now to bring in community members so you can see your tax dollars hard at work."
Piatt said that he often tells people he is proud to be the commander of the 10th Mountain Division, but he also feels fortunate to be a commander of a great nature preserve that also happens to be a training area.
"It doesn't happen everywhere like this, where the military and environment can co-exist and we can both benefit," he said. "This is a very rich part of New York state, and we are proud to be here and to be good custodians of this great land. People who lead the small towns around this community in the North Country help us do that, and they help us develop in a positive way."
Piatt said that Fort Drum is rich with history and archaeology, and it takes a lot of skill from experts on post, such as Dr. Laurie Rush and her team, to make it so that its past is preserved while preparing for the future.
Rush, Fort Drum's cultural resources manager, said that because people have occupied these grounds for over 10,000 years, it makes for interesting work for the post's archaeologists.
"We've been fortunate to have an archaeological field team so we can identify and protect these important places," she said. "We are also the only Army installation to use those places for training to help deploying Soldiers identify and respect the cultural property of host nations. Whether it's Afghanistan, Iraq or Africa, we want our Soldiers to understand the importance of heritage and history, no matter where in the world they go."
Cheryl Horton, Philadelphia town supervisor, said that she had the opportunity as the current association president to propose adding this history tour to the itinerary for their summer meeting. As a 54-year resident of Philadelphia, she lives closer to Fort Drum than any of her visiting colleagues, and she has been on post before.
"I thought it was too important to let go, so I threw the idea out there to the association and they jumped on it," she said. "It's not only our history - those who live in this area - but the history of everyone in the state. I just wanted to share it with our friends."
Horton said that she knew Piatt had recently returned from a deployment to Iraq, but with the presidential visit just a day earlier, she didn't think the commanding general would have time to see them.
"When I heard that the president was visiting Fort Drum, I thought maybe he would be too busy," she said. "So, I was thrilled and honored that he took the time for us."
The Association of Towns of the State of New York was established in 1933 to support the economic growth and efficiencies of townships throughout the state. It provides training programs, research and information services and technical and legal assistance to member towns.