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Carl McLaughlin retires after decade of connecting community with Fort Drum

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Carl McLaughlin
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Carl McLaughlin connected the community with Fort Drum as head of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization

After a decade of lobbying state and federal officials on behalf of Fort Drum, Carl McLaughlin, has announced his retirement.

McLaughlin began his work as head of the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization, or FDRLO, in 2004. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were just beginning.  Fort Drum was under threat of shutting down in a round of base closures. McLaughlin got news in his first week on the job from the Pentagon about the base’s 10th Mountain Division.

“They announced we’d be forming a third brigade that would be homebased at Fort Drum and a forth brigade that would be homebased at Fort Polk,” said McLaughlin.

Fort Drum was about to grow, big time, by as many as 10,000.

“No sooner was it announced, literally at the end of the month in Lay then new soldiers started to arrive.”

McLaughlin and the whole team at FDRLO scrambled to find places to house the soldiers and their families. Schools expanded classrooms and hospitals hired more staff. But as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan progressed, thousands of troops continued to leave the area on deployment, only to return months later. McLaughlin said it’s taken time for the community to adjust. 

“Has the community learned how to deal with that? Yes, we welcome them and support them.”

Don Alexander, head of the Jefferson County Local Development Corporation, said McLaughlin helped save the base and the community last year when the Pentagon was considering where to cut military personnel.

“Carl was instrumental in rallying all of the community to stand up and be counted when it came to demonstrating to the big Army and Pentagon that we welcomed Fort Drum. We didn’t want to see it shrunk in any way,” said Alexander.

McLaughlin said the Pentagon’s decision to spare the base from cuts was a high point in his career.

“We didn’t lose any additional soldiers in that process which is amazing.”

Ultimately, 28 soldiers were cut. McLaughlin said although he’ll be leaving, the work will continue. The Army will look to cut troop numbers again in 2017. It’ll be up to FDRLO to rally support for the base once more, this time without him. The organization is currently looking for McLaughlin's replacement.