07 August 2009

New housing available, Outside the wire

Via Outside the wire, Watertown Daily Times

526 new homes available for soldiers at Fort Drum

FORT DRUM — An additional 526 new homes are available for soldiers and families on post. Fort Drum Mountain Community Homes has completed construction in the Rhicard Hills community. The company, which constructs and operates the private housing, has built 934 units since 2005 and has 465 to finish by the end of 2011.

The 2,270 units that were built in the 1980s will be renovated. The housing will accommodate 36 percent of Fort Drum soldiers and families, and the company said it has spent approximately $183 million with local businesses and contractors.

Outside the wire

I think I might make this a weekly post to talk about the community surrounding Fort Drum. Everyone I’ve talked to about this topic (and it’s quite a long list) usually uses the same word or phrase to describe the relationship: Unique and one of a kind.

In June I was asked to contribute to a special section the paper dedicated to examining the community partnership. At one point when writing, I thought to myself “I’ve heard the same thing in every interview, how am I going to write this?”

That’s when it hit me. That’s what I would write. I would just reiterate everything that I had been told. I think some of the best interviews I’ve had were for that section of the paper. I got a chance to ask all the brigade commanders, garrison commander and commanding general what they loved so much about being stationed at Fort Drum. It was something they loved to talk about, so it made the conversation great.

When I first got here in June 2008, I was told that the relationship between Fort Drum and the community was different than at any other Army installation in the world. I figured that it was something that people just say. But that’s totally not true. The people most directly involved on the military and community side of the wire, are so dedicated and passionate about working with one another they don’t even take credit for their accomplisments.

Col. Jerome Penner, the former medical commander at Fort Drum, just left for a new post at Fort Lewis, Wash. When I asked him what he was most proud of during his two years here, he said “I can’t say me, I have to say we.” He said he couldn’t have done it without his staff on Fort Drum and the community network with the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization and the several large hospitals in the region.

Maj. Gen. Michael L. Oates, the commanding general, said the same thing. I interviewed him for the last time about a week ago. We talked about his deployment to Iraq and his two and a half years as commander of Fort Drum. When asked the same question, he said “I didn’t do any of this alone. I had a great garrison commander and a great network or people.”

What do you think? Is the north country “the warmest place you’ll ever live,” like Col. David B. Haight, the commander of the 3rd Brigade, says it is?

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