Photographer visits Fort Drum families

The sign on Route 11 northbound in LeRay, welcoming people to the main entrance to Fort Drum. WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES

FORT DRUM — About 1,300 Fort Drum soldiers will be returning from Afghanistan sooner than expected because of the coronavirus

Maj. Gen. Brian Mennes, commander of the 10th Mountain Division, announced at a Fort Drum town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon that the soldiers are coming back because U.S. commanders are reducing patrols in Afghanistan as the result of COVID-19.

Gen. Mennes said a large majority of the deployment will stay in Afghanistan, but 400 members of the 10th Mountain Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade and 800 to 900 members of the 1st Brigade Combat Team will redeploy to Fort Drum.

It wasn’t clear on Tuesday how long the 10th Mountain soldiers were in Afghanistan, when they were supposed to return to Fort Drum or where they were over there.

Gen. Mennes learned earlier in the day four U.S. coalition members tested positive for COVID-19, but those soldiers are not members of the 10th Mountain Division.

Afghanistan is one of the worst hit countries with the coronavirus. The Hill newspaper reported Sunday that the peace process is expected to be eclipsed by Afghanistan’s health system’s struggle to respond to the spread of the virus.

Fort Drum leaders are planning how place the returning soldiers in quarantine to control any potential spread of COVID-19. They’re also making sure to help family members of soldiers who are returning from Afghanistan, the general said.

Forty-six soldiers remain quarantined at Fort Drum airfield after they returned from deployment from South Korea last month. The general visited them on Monday.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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