When the United States Army reactivated the 10th Mountain Division in the 1980s, it chose Fort Drum as the unit’s new base of operations.
But Michael T. Plummer wanted more for those who would come here. He has dedicated his life to making sure that soldiers don’t just arrive at a military post; he worked to see that they had a home.
Plummer began connecting the soldiers with residents and organizations in Watertown. The Army’s goal was to integrate Fort Drum personnel into the surrounding community as much as possible, and Plummer did more than his share to make that happen.
The retired army colonel died on January 11 at the age of 83. A native of San Francisco, Plummer served in the military for more than three decades.
Bob Gorman, former editor of the Watertown Daily Times, spoke earlier this year of Plummer’s efforts to increase connections between Fort Drum and the North Country.
“For 25 years, Mike Plummer has been tirelessly honored for his efforts to ensure that every platoon of soldiers deployed to Fort Drum was ‘adopted’ by local citizens until every unit returned home from Belgrade, Baghdad , Bagram or anywhere else bullets and bombs had taken the place of diplomacy,” Gorman wrote in a Jan. 16 column in The Times. “Plummer, a West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, was a trained tactician and also a strategist in his own right.(If you need an example of the difference, consider the US exit from Afghanistan, which was heavy on strategy and light on tactics). army to include rapidly deployable “light infantry” is due in large part to the strategic thinking Plummer described in a document he prepared for the army in the early 1980s.
“It’s no surprise, then, that in retirement, the former colonel’s big brain devised a strategy of having community groups ‘adopt’ units of deployed soldiers,” according to Gorman’s chronicle. “In other words, what professional soldier leader wouldn’t want their soldiers’ morale boosted so they can stay focused on their mission? But putting such a plan into action – tactically – is another thing. It took countless hours of legwork and phone calls, and tons of spreadsheets with businesses and civic, religious and school groups in a column facing each unit deployed in an adjacent column. We can all look back and say that Plummer’s success took nothing but elbow grease. But consider that time, long ago, when Fort Drum became home to the reconstituted 10th Mountain Division. Beginning in 1985, thousands of soldiers and their families began pouring into the north of the country and continued to do so when the division’s size doubled in 2004.
The work involved in such a project was extraordinary. But so were the people who rose to that challenge – and so did their leader.
Upstate New York has benefited immensely from the presence of Fort Drum and the people who work there. We have good reason to believe that soldiers and civilians and their families feel the same way.
Plummer has done as much as anyone to connect these two entities. We are therefore delighted that a street connecting Fort Drum to Watertown is named in his honor.