Fort Drum's 10th Mountain Division Confirms its Mobility Deploying in Blizzard

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In the face of blizzard conditions that paralyzed cities around the Northeast, the Army's 10th Mountain Division kept its airfield open to deploy 3,646 Soldiers on 21 planes.

“I don’t think there’s another Army airfield that could’ve done what we did. I don’t know of anyone else who has the capabilities of enduring those types of conditions and still meeting the mission,”

Keeping the Army’s most-deployed division moving takes a civilian staff willing to go beyond the call of duty.

The civilians at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum in Northern New York proved they were up for the task when an early January snow storm slammed the area. Storms led to public transportation bans and brought traffic to a halt throughout New York and New England in January but it was business as usual at the airfield, where crews worked around the clock for five days in near zero visibility to prepare for deploying more than 3,600 1st Brigade Combat Team Soldiers to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La.

“I don’t think there’s another Army airfield that could’ve done what we did. I don’t know of anyone else who has the capabilities of enduring those types of conditions and still meeting the mission,” said Joe White, Aviation Division chief in a story by The Mountaineer, an on-post new service.

Fort Drum’s location on 108,000 acres in Jefferson County, just east of Lake Ontario, puts the post in a lake-effect snow zone that annually receives some of the heaviest snowfall on the east coast. The airfield crew, like other staff around the fort, is comprised of area residents familiar with winter driving who are uniquely positioned to arrive on-time and provide a safe deployment.

“They work overtime when required; they come in early because they know that in order to get to their equipment, there’s work that needs to be done before they can even get to their trucks and testing still has to be done,” Mike Richardson, airfield operations manager, said in The Mountaineer coverage.

According to The Mountaineer, the five-day January deployment included 21 airplanes, 3,646 Soldiers and 140 tons of cargo. Work in the harsh conditions included loading aircraft, de-icing planes, clearing runways and refueling engines. Conditions were reportedly so poor that plow drivers at the airfield could not see each other and periodically stopped their rigs in roadways until conditions improved.

All aircraft departed on time and two left early, according to White.

“We have the ‘Team Drum’ mentality – all of these different organizations coming together for a single purpose – to make sure that Soldiers can deploy safely,” Richardson told The Mountaineer. “We have the capability to move large volumes of Soldiers and equipment in any weather condition. We’ve proven that capability. We are more than an Army airfield that has a combat aviation brigade attached to it; we are a power projection platform for the Northeast.”

Fort Drum is home to the 10th Mountain Division and more than 190,000 soldiers and civilian staff.

The Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization is a community-based membership organization with the mission of preserving positive inter-relationships and communication between the civilian and military communities and leadersin the tri-county region of Northern New York State. http://www.fdrlo.org 315-836-1531

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Carl A. McLaughlin, Executive Director
Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization
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