March 23, 2015 – Syracuse/The Post-Standard, By Mark Weiner
WATERTOWN, N.Y. -- An overflow crowd of thousands packed into Jefferson Community College on Friday night to show their support for Fort Drum at a public hearing with Pentagon leaders who visited to discuss the future of the base.
The college’s Sturtz Theater quickly filled to standing-room capacity, forcing an overflow crowd to watch a livestream feed in a downstairs gym. Some people had to be called up from the gym in order to speak at the hearing.
For almost three hours, dozens of public officials and ordinary citizens offered testimony to Army leaders -- all in support of keeping Fort Drum operating as a thriving military installation.
At the end of the hearing, John P. McLaurin III, the Army’s deputy director of force management, made it clear he was impressed by what he saw Friday. McLaurin said he realizes that Fort Drum enjoys “overwhelming" support from the community.
The speakers talked about Fort Drum’s importance to the community and the potential impact of deep personnel cuts as the Army considers reducing its force by an additional 70,000 soldiers.
Col. Gary Rosenberg, the garrison commander at Fort Drum, thanked the crowd for turning out in big numbers, beginning with a pep rally at 4:30 p.m. before the arrival of top Army officials.
“I’ll tell you, it’s very heartwarming to see this outpouring of support for Fort Drum and its soldiers," Rosenberg told the audience at the start of the hearing, billed as a “listening session" for Army officials
Rosenberg said the Army brass began the day at Indian River High School, where business and community leaders talked about why Fort Drum is good for the North Country, New York state and the Army.
Fort Drum is home to 17,269 soldiers and 3,799 civilian employees, making it the largest employer at a single site in New York, economic development officials say.
The Army base contributes $1.8 billion per year to the local economy, according to the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, a nonprofit group that advocates for growth around the base.
Fort Drum Rally Thousands packed into Jefferson Community College to show their support for Fort Drum at a public hearing with Pentagon leaders who visited to discuss the future of the base.
The organization had a goal of obtaining 10,000 signatures on a petition to Army officials declaring local support for Fort Drum. By the start of the hearing, the online petition had 15,281 signatures.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was among those who sent a video message that was played to those attending the hearing. Schumer said he recently underscored the importance of Fort Drum in a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
“I won’t mince words or leave anyone in the room in doubt about where I stand," Schumer said. “Fort Drum is part of the very soul of the North Country, and as long as Chuck Schumer is in the Senate, it will remain so."
Schumer said he told Carter that he considers “the 10th Mountain Division to be exactly the kind of tactical unit the Army needs, and that preserving Fort Drum is at the very top of my priority list, and Secretary Carter assured me that it was at his, too."
Click here, to view The Post-Standard’s photo gallery from the event.
Related video: Fort Drum Rally
The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.