America’s response to the events of 11 September, 2001 and the Global War on Terror will mean that many members of our Armed Forces (both Active Duty and Reserve Components) will be deployed and in harms way for prolonged periods of time. These service members will come from communities all over our Nation and those communities will want to support them and let them know they care.
The Adopt a 10th Mountain (Mt.) Platoon Program is how one community helps to reduce the adverse impacts of deployments on Soldiers and their families. The community is in upstate New York and surrounds Fort Drum, the home of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). The 10th Mt Division like most Army units has not been at home a lot since Desert Storm. The Adopt a 10th Mt. Platoon Program since 1992 has ensured that every platoon that deployed from Fort Drum had a sponsor (business, school, church group, civic organization, etc.).
The platoon was targeted because it is the organizational level where you find the majority of our Soldiers. It is also the “point of the bayonet,” where things get done by the youngest men and women in America’s All Volunteer Army. The thought was that if the community could somehow show their appreciation and pride to these Soldiers, the Soldiers would feel better about what they were doing and be less concerned about being away from their friends and/or family members. A platoon has anywhere from 10 to 40 soldiers. The type (infantry, communications, medical, etc.) and size are considered when matching a sponsor with a platoon.
The program is meant to be low cost so it is affordable at the grass roots level. Some examples of what others have done: some sent news clippings or old magazines once a month, or video tapes of football games or the TV programs the platoon members were interested in, or games, or cookies, or even just an American flag. Several sponsors sent disposable cameras and the platoon leaders returned pictures of the platoon members and their activities. Some sponsors got schools involved and had a class write each platoon member or send each of them a birthday card or valentine. Others held a Christmas party for the family members and sent their platoon a videotape. It can be anything the sponsor wants, but the program works the best when they respond to the needs of their adopted platoon. Remember the majority of these soldiers are young men and women 18 – 24 who are mostly in the Army to learn job skills or to earn money towards a college degree. They should be treated the same as a sponsor would his/her son/daughter away at college or working their first job.
The Local Chapter of the Association of the United States Army provides the leadership and management structure to help make the program work but it could also be the Rotary, Lions, VFW, American Legion or some other civic group.
Our dream is to have every platoon that deploys from their home station throughout America, adopted when called to action. We are talking about Active Duty, Reserves, and National Guard platoons in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine.
The Adopt a 10th Mt. Platoon Program or whatever it becomes at the local level is America at its best. It represents our democratic concept of a military of the people, for the people and supported by the people. It adds action to the patriotic emotions that already bind us together and will do a lot to help heal the current and future wounds we will suffer in the days ahead. I sincerely believe that it is a win–win for our communities, service members, and our Nation.
For more information about the program please write AUSA PO Box 3 Watertown, NY 13601 or email:
Joe McLaughlin CSM (R) firstname.lastname@example.org