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Garrison commander shares details of Fort Detrick

June 12, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Fort Detrick isn't a municipality, but it's big and busy enough to be one, Col. Mary R. Deutsch, the garrison commander, said Wednesday.

"I am the manager of the city of Fort Detrick," she said at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce breakfast program.

Deutsch, who is retiring soon, said Fort Detrick, with about 8,000 workers, is the largest employer in Frederick County, Md.

The Army owns 202 buildings there and works with other branches of the military and federal government agencies.

Yet, at 1,211 acres, it's considered small by military standards, she said.

She compared the military installation to a chihuahua.

"We're small, but we think we're big," she said.

Deutsch's presentation at Duffy's on Potomac in Hagerstown fit in with one of the chamber's state legislative priorities: making sure Washington County is considered during the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) process, in which some military areas will grow and others will shrink.

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The number of people at the installation is projected to increase by about 1,400 in the next 10 years, she said.

With gas prices high, many employees will live in Washington or Frederick counties instead of farther away, she said.

Fort Detrick is well known as the site of the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

"We have a mission," Deutsch said, "and that is to protect the war fighter."

But after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the scope of work at the installation broadened. Deutsch said an anthrax-laden letter sent to Thomas Daschle, a U.S. senator from South Dakota at the time, was analyzed at USAMRIID.

She said Fort Detrick is working with local colleges to train students who could later work at the installation.

That means going through "a full lifestyle polygraph," scrutiny in an era when it's common to post personal thoughts and pictures on the Internet, Deutsch said.

That can be tough for young people who "don't think 10 minutes past what they're doing," she said.

But the payoff for prudence is sizable. Deutsch said security clearance for a job at Fort Detrick guarantees about $15,000 to $25,000 more than what the job would otherwise pay.

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