FORT DRUM, NY (April 8, 2022) – Adjusting to a new Army installation, a new home, and a new community takes time and can often feel overwhelming.
Lexie Morin, who arrived in Fort Drum with her husband in mid-February after a five-day drive from Houston, literally felt lost.
“It was snowing hard the day we got here and we were driving in circles,” she said. “The maps weren’t helping, and it actually sent us back out the front door. We were really lost.
Along with acclimating to a winter in the north of the country, Morin said she was experiencing life on an Army post for the first time. They were living off-post at their last duty station, where she had family in the area she could lean on.
“So I didn’t know all the resources that spouses have in place, and I wasn’t really concerned about meeting new people because I had my sister, and all my other family was three o’clock. road to Houston,” Morin said. “This time it’s completely different for me. I needed to find friends, people I can do things with.
It was through the Fort Drum Relocation Readiness Program Coffee Connections that Morin found a sense of belonging and what it meant to be part of a military community. She met a new friend, joined a sewing group, and started volunteering with the English as a Second Language (ESL) program and the Resettlement Readiness Program.
“I knew very quickly that the people here were going to help me,” said Morin. “There are a lot of things to do, and I think anyone can find something if they really want to.”
Fort Drum Resettlement Readiness Program staff host Coffee Connections the first Thursday of each month at the Family Resource Center (FRC), Bldg. 11042 on boulevard du Mont Belvédère.
Scarlett Sharkey, resettlement readiness program manager, said the monthly social gathering has existed in one form or another in various venues for more than a decade.
“Anyway, it’s like drinking from a fire hose when you arrive at a new facility,” she said. “How do you find that new friend, that new job, that volunteer opportunity, or the services that you need? It can be scary, and most of the time you’re on your own until you go out, do something, and meet people. Coffee Connections is one way to do this.
Representatives from across the facility attend Coffee Connections to introduce themselves and their programs, including Family and Morale, Wellness, and Recreation; Child and youth services; the USO; Family Advocacy Program and the American Red Cross. Spouses from higher commands are also on hand to welcome newcomers to Fort Drum.
Rather than congregating attendees in an auditorium or classroom, Sharkey said the warm, inviting cafe-style ambience the FRC provides makes Coffee Connections feel more like a casual conversation than a business briefing. army.
“We want you to feel like you’re having coffee with new friends,” she said. “And we want you to come back again and again.”
Anna Ostrander, who works in the Resettlement Readiness Program, arrived at Fort Drum last October from Alabama.
“People were really welcoming and willing to share a lot of information,” she said.
Ostrander said she followed a few spouse groups on social media, as well as many Fort Drum organizations and programs, to stay informed.
“They may share a lot of the same things, but it’s a great way to learn about the area and things to do,” she said.
This is Ostrander’s third duty station, and she said that while she knew she would find an exchange post, fitness facilities and a veterinary clinic somewhere on the post, there will be always unknowns.
“Each is different in its own way – where things are, how isolated they are, and how much is on the facility versus what you have to leave the facility for,” she said. “You eventually learn the skills to help you adapt, but it’s really a whole other world when you’re just starting out.”
Since she began working at the FRC for the Soldier and Family Readiness Division, Ostrander said she found she had only scratched the surface of what was available for community members.
“A lot of spouses who come to Fort Drum are very young, and it’s their first duty station,” she said. “They don’t know how to start the acclimatization process and find what they need. I thought I knew what Fort Drum was and what they have but since working here I have learned so much more about the different programs, services and so many events that I might not have otherwise known.
Morin said she hopes other newcomers will take advantage of social opportunities like Coffee Connections to get the most out of their Fort Drum experience.
“My advice for them would be to get to know the people here and the resources that are available to them,” she said. “It’s best if you try to make those connections early.”
To learn more about Coffee Connections and other programs available through the Soldier and Family Readiness Division, visit https://home.army.mil/drum/index.php/about/Garrison/directorate-human-resources /soldier-and-family-readiness-division-sfrd/SFRC, and follow www.facebook.com/Fort-Drum-Relocation-Readiness-Program-171335822906429.