A Field of Hope

Battalion Fire Support Officer, Joe DeNenno, was responsible with helping to make the idea of Syracuse University's football program practicing at Fort Drum a reality. CuseNation.com spoke with him to find out exactly how that happened.

The idea of Fort Drum partnering with Syracuse University, however, began well before this season.

"Our previous brigade commander, Third Brigade 10th Mountain Division Commander, Colonel Patrick Frank, his alma mater for his masters was Syracuse," said DeNenno. "[He's] a big fan of sports and so, a couple years ago, probably around the 2010 timeframe, he developed a partnership, doing ‘A Day in the Life of a Soldier' event or a few things like that with the basketball team, field hockey team, and football team."

After the partnership was formed, "…we deployed and while we were deployed, he (Colonel Patrick Frank) kept in contact," shared DeNenno. The connection between Fort Drum and Syracuse University continued when DeNenno and his peers, "…held up a few Syracuse things and filmed a few things. [We] sent it back to Syracuse, and they played it at their…home opener last year at the stadium."

With the bridge already built between the military and the university, Frank went a step further with the Orange's football program.

"And then as we're coming back," said DeNenno, "I guess he was talking with Coach (Doug) Marrone and our new Division Commander, General Mark Milley. They came up with this idea, ‘Hey, let's sponsor you guys. Let's host you guys up here for your summer training camp. If we can get it ready, will you come?' And they (Syracuse) were like, ‘Yeah, if these fields meet the intent, then let's do it.' And from there, they plopped me in the middle of this."

Why DeNenno? How could he help Syracuse run a smooth, productive camp? "The 2-87 Second Battalion 87th Infantry Regimen Catamounts, we've been hosts for events like this before," stated DeNenno. "And so my new battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Beckno, he took charge from there and then assigned this task to me."

"I'm familiar with working with outside organizations, and being a liaison, coordinator, and a project manager," DeNenno continued. "So that history kinda enabled me to work a little bit more smoothly through this."

As the plan to bring Syracuse University's football program continued to evolve, so did DeNenno's involvement.

"Around May 20th or so, the field was my main scope," said DeNenno. "…From there they said, ‘We wanna get some leadership training out of this. We wanna do some military-partnered events here, so you guys come watch us and host us here and then we'll do some of your military training as well."

Now that the Fort Drum piece of Syracuse camp has come to a close, DeNenno said that he hopes the Orange "…have better commanding control as the coach, as the coaches, and then as the team captains. So many times with a lot of huge organizations like this," DeNenno continued, "you have 30 coaches, and then, 100 players. Well sooner or later a player, he's on the field. He's gonna have to stand up and take the way."

DeNenno is hoping for there to be leadership that trickles down through the program to provide a positive outcome. "I would love to see these guys walk away with a polished product where the coaches can just bring the captains and say, ‘Hey captains, this is what we need to have.' And the captains go out to these other guys. The other guys get their units together and they execute."

Execution will be on the menu soon for Syracuse, with their first game of the season about two weeks away when they play host to Northwestern on September 1st at the Carrier Dome.

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