New York state dedicated the new Fort Drum Connector Interstate 781 Thursday in honor of the late Lt. Gen. Paul G. Cerjan. Gen. Cerjan, a native of Rome, son of a Polish immigrant and graduate of West Point, came to Fort Drum when the 10th Mountain Division was activated in 1985. He teamed with his West Point classmates Lt. Gen. William S. Carpenter Jr. and Col. Michael T. Plummer to plan the new Fort Drum.
The three men accepted the mission of building a new military base at Fort Drum, a base big enough to station 10,000 soldiers, but also flexible enough to grow as demands increased upon the Army.
The base was designed so well that when the 3rd Battalion was added to the division Gen. Cerjans design easily accommodated the infrastructure required.
As Gen. Cerjans widow, Patricia, reminded the audience Thursday, he was particularly concerned about linking the base, its soldiers and the community. Gen. Cerjan spent tremendous time and energy starting the Association of the United States Army and assuring that it was controlled by off-post leaders, not military appointees. He reached out to the community and helped forge the future by assuring that Fort Drum students would be educated in public schools, not in on post schools, and that hospital services would be provided by the community.
He also envisioned the need to connect the base directly with Interstate 81 and that Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield had to be large enough to accommodate the aircraft required to transport soldiers to their next assignments.
Paul G. Cerjan left Fort Drum, New York state and the north country with a military base thoroughly integrated with its neighbors and capable of training and housing soldiers in modern, flexible facilities. Naming the main highway link between the base and the community is a fitting recognition of his commitment to soldiers, families and neighboring communities.