FORT DRUM — As 10th Mountain Division commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bannister prepares to move on to his next assignment, he noted the change in approach he and his soldiers have had to make in recent years.
Instead of preparing for counter-insurgency fights, soldiers were preparing for forces of similar size and capability, and focusing on a dramatically smaller list of key tasks to master. At the same time, the division kept up a high rate of deployments, with seven major deployments covering all of the division’s brigades and its headquarters.
“There was just a balancing a myriad of tasks and trying to simplify enough for the units so you don’t create a lot of turbulence on them,” Gen. Bannister said. “The division headquarters, that’s really our job to set conditions for our combat units so that they can function.”
Gen. Bannister gave a wide-ranging interview to local media as he readied to turn over command of the division to Maj. Gen. Walter E. Piatt at the end of this month. Gen. Bannister’s next duty location has not been finalized.
Since Gen. Bannister’s arrival in March 2015, the post has faced several challenges and made multiple changes.
A few months after Gen. Bannister’s arrival, the Army announced the post would lose only 28 soldiers as a part of service-wide cuts, much fewer than other bases.
“We did pretty well on that last run of cuts,” Gen. Bannister said.
The post, with help from lawmakers like Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, was able to proceed with the transfer of National Guard Apache helicopters.
The division also linked with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Vermont National Guard as a part of the Army’s Associated Units program, which Gen. Bannister said could help its training.
The general was also pleased with the Army’s designation of the post as an Arctic Zone, which allowed the post to be allocated $12.5 million for new cold-weather gear.
Among the challenges he saw for the Army into the future was the service’s finances as it continues to work under a continuing resolution.
“It’s an uncertain world we’re in, which is why it’s so important that we continue to be funded and we get out to the training when we can,” Gen. Bannister said.
He said he hoped the upcoming Department of Defense budget would “stop the death by 1,000 cuts to our garrison.”
The outgoing general said he appreciated the civilian community’s support of soldiers and their families.
“I like Drum better than any other post because of the care factor,” Gen. Bannister said. “I think they really care for us here, not just about us being here and bringing money and all that, it’s about the care factor.”
As to his replacement, Gen. Bannister praised Gen. Piatt’s record, which includes multiple periods of service in the north country, including time as division deputy commanding general.
Already, division staff have been providing the new commander with information to prepare for his arrival.
“He’s more than qualified to be here,” Gen. Bannister said.