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British officer settles in during two-year assignment at Fort Drum

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FORT DRUM — From training missions to deployments or just sporting activities, 10th Mountain Division events being planned come through Maj. Gareth J. Boyd, the division’s chief of future operations.

Though the work could be considered routine, Maj. Boyd’s background is far from it: he is a 20-year member of the British army placed in the 10th Mountain Division through the Army Military Personnel Exchange Program. The program has placed a British officer at various roles within the division since 2005.

About nine months into a two-year assignment, the Salisbury, England, native and his family have settled into the post and made the north country their home.

“The quality of life the military have on this post is considerably better than what I’ve experienced back at home,” Maj. Boyd said.

The post’s location was initially a surprise for the Boyds, who thought it was closer to New York City or the Adirondacks. Maj. Boyd, a part of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, said he had to make a quick decision on where to go while deployed in the Falkland Islands and told his wife New York was his first choice.

“I kind of knew New York was a big state,” said Emma K. Boyd, Maj. Boyd’s wife, when reached by phone. “I didn’t realize the 10th Mountain Division was this far upstate.”

Maj. Boyd said the placement in the division was competitive, and already he had received emails from fellow British officers interested in a future American placement.

The exchange program sends over an equal number of American soldiers; however, the soldiers do not have to be from Fort Drum.

Though his planning work usually puts him behind a desk, Maj. Boyd’s infantry training allowed him to lead some training operations during the post’s Mountain Peak exercise. During a media opportunity in April to observe the exercise, Maj. Boyd could be seen preparing 3rd Brigade Combat Team soldiers for a walk-through of a live fire range.

“I haven’t done that for over 10 years,” Maj. Boyd said of the supervising role. “Back in the U.K. that would have never happened.”

Maj. Boyd said he and his wife, who live on the post, were most worried about their children being homesick. However, they said their children, Olivia, 9, and Thomas, 7, have settled into the Carthage Central School District and have joined several clubs and sports teams. Since arriving, the family has taken part in some of the prime outdoor activities, such as learning to ski at Dry Hill Ski Area.

Mrs. Boyd said a few things made her miss home, like the different taste of tea or the atmosphere of area pubs. Unable to find Marmite, a salty spread for toast or biscuits, Mrs. Boyd said she stocked up while on a family trip to Ottawa.

Based on their accents, Mrs. Boyd said, she and her family have been asked if they were Canadian, Australian or from the American South.

“People think we’re from all over the place,” she said.

Mrs. Boyd said a person she spoke with, learning she was from England, asked what language was spoken there.

With the bicentennial underway for the War of 1812, fought between Americans and a combination of British and Canadian forces, Maj. Boyd admitted he was not an expert about its history. However, he said, another soldier recently left a report on his desk about how some British tactics during the war had led to losses.

In his remaining time with the division, Maj. Boyd said, he most looks forward to a planned deployment later this year with the division’s headquarters.

He said when he returns to his British regiment, he hopes to instruct fellow majors using the skills he built during the assignment.

Though the deployment has been discussed multiple times by post and division commander Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, a public affairs officer observing the interview said the deployment is not official until it is announced by the Department of Defense.

Perhaps the best sign of the Boyds’ transition to their new north country home is their enthusiasm for staying even with the planned deployment.

“Now that I’ve been here, I realize what a great network there is for families that have deployed,” Mrs. Boyd said. “If I went back to England with the kids, we’d feel slightly disconnected.”

The Boyd family plans to return home to England during a coming two-week block leave period. However, Maj. and Mrs. Boyd said they would not have minded spending a little more time in the north country instead.

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