Fort Carson

Fort Carson is faring better than many as part of the Army's efforts to reduce overall troop numbers by 40,000.

The Mountain Post will lose about 365 soldiers, a fraction of the 16,000 once deemed possible

In a statement, Colorado Springs mayor John Suthers called this good news for the city, and says it's "an indication of the importance of Ft. Carson in the overall defense mission.  It also reflects positively on the case Colorado Springs has made on behalf of Ft. Carson."

During the Cold War, the Army began making land acquisitions to develop a training site where mountain post soldiers could prepare for war in an environment similar to potential areas for deployment. The result was the establishment of the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, an over 200,000 acre training area in Southeastern Colorado. More than 20 years later, in 2006, the Army sought to expand the site. Instead, they met a local organized resistance, and were unable to extend their training ground.  

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

The Department of Defense has approved plans to modify and increase training at the Army's Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in Southern Colorado.  The Record of Decision [.pdf], signed May 1 and made available last week, approves what's being called "Enhanced Readiness Training," to include brigade-size exercises an

The Army has released its final Environmental Impact Statement for a proposed increase in training and operations at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in rural southeast Colorado.  The Army is looking to increase training at the site to include explosives, drones and full-brigade sized exercises, though in the final 642-page document [.pdf], the Army says it’s no l

Governor John Hickenlooper spoke in support of Fort Carson Tuesday at a listening session in Colorado Springs.  The forum comes as the Army looks to reduce its numbers of active-duty soldiers by at least 40,000.

The reductions could impact up to 16,000 personnel at Fort Carson.  The listening session was one of 30 being held across Army bases aimed at providing input to the Pentagon before any decisions are made.

Governor Hickenlooper said Colorado has a long, proud history with the military, and provides training and support that is unique.

Army leadership is seeking public input in light of changes and cuts that could affect the Pikes Peak Region.  KRCC’s Tucker Hampson reports on a community listening session held Tuesday.
 

The Army is looking to reduce the number of active duty soldiers by at least 40,000. The Regional Business Alliance says this could impact up to 16,000 personnel at Fort Carson.

4th Infantry Division spokesman Lt. Colonel Armando Hernandez says community input will play an important role in the coming changes.

The Army is looking to increase training activities at its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. As part of the process, officials are required to conduct environmental impact studies and open the reports to public comments.

Today, Monday December 15, is the last day to submit public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed increase in training.

You can view the DEIS here [.pdf].

Andrea Chalfin / KRCC

Explosions, drones, and full-brigade size exercises with armored vehicles are all a part of the Army’s proposed Enhanced Readiness plan for its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado. The goal is to get troops trained on new gear.  It’s a controversial plan that some say opens the door to expansion, a notion that’s long been a thorn in the side of many nearby residents.

The training grounds span around 235,000 acres between Trinidad and LaJunta. It’s bound by the Purgatorie River on the east and the Comanche National Grasslands to the north. Recreationally, the area around the Maneuver Site is known for canyons, wildlife, ruins, and dinosaur tracks.

Nearly 100 people packed a small meeting hall at the training site for the only scheduled public forum. They came from as far away as Boulder and as close as the adjacent tiny community of Tyrone to hear about the proposal and its projected environmental impacts.

Technologies and tactics are constantly evolving, according to Dan Benford, Director of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security at Fort Carson.  As such, Benford added, it’s important for soldiers to be able to train on equipment they’d use while deployed.

“When we put them in harm’s way,” said Benford, “they have to have that second nature reaction with their equipment.”

Fort Carson released a 430-page Draft Environmental Impact Statement [.pdf], or DEIS, that looks at proposed alternatives, including a continuation of existing operations, and an update to allow for Strykers - the new class of eight-wheeled armored vehicles. 

Then there’s the preferred plan, which the Army calls “Enhanced Readiness Training.”  This plan includes the Stryker vehicles, demolitions, and drones, among other components.

“We’ve got some other training that soldiers need to be able to do,” said Hal Alguire, the Director of Public Works for Fort Carson.  “So to use effectively the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, we want to do those things.”

Among the findings, the DEIS lists potentially significant impacts to geology and soils, including loss of plant cover and erosion.  It also lists moderate impacts to noise, and minor impacts to air quality and cultural resources.

The DEIS isn’t enough for Jean Aguerre.  “It doesn’t make any sense that there’s no cumulative impacts,” Aguerre said during the public comment period.  She also invoked the memory of the 1930s Dust Bowl and the sensitive nature of the native plants in the area. 

“We got a soil analysis in this current DEIS, with absolutely no root analysis,” Aguerre said.  “The key to the short-grass prairie, as everybody in this room knows, is keeping that root system intact.”

Like Aguerre, most of the comments were critical of the Army and its plans for the remote Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site, ranging from wildlife and historical concerns, to simply requests for more time and meetings with easier access to provide public comment.

Trinidad Mayor Joe Reorda addressed the area ranchers who oppose the proposal.

“We support you,” he told the ranchers. “The city of Trinidad supports you.  But by God, we have to have somewhere to train.”

Many are concerned through, that allowing the higher intensity activity at the site would open the door to eventual expansion.  It’s a possibility that Garrison Commander Colonel Joel Hamilton downplayed in his opening remarks.

“For the record,” said Colonel Hamilton, “we are not about expansion of Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site.”

It’s also written into the DEIS that the proposal doesn’t require expansion.

That’s a point that Jim Herrell equates to having a coyote keep watch over a chicken house.  Herrell said at the meeting that continued expansion of the infrastructure at Pinon Canyon would lead to a Congressional authorization within seven years or less to acquire more land.

“And don’t you think there won’t be,” said Herrell.  “Then there will be a Congressman, probably from Texas, that will tack on an appropriations amendment to some crap to buy more land.  And everyone in this room in uniform will be gone.  And everyone in this room with a cowboy hat and boots that are pointed will be here, just a little older.”

In the face of this kind of distrust, Colonel Hamilton said it’s important to keep the dialogue going.  “It’s maintaining an open line of communication,” said Hamilton.  “We also heard the term ‘transparency’ thrown around this evening and we take it very seriously.”

Hamilton also mentioned the Southern Colorado Working Group, which is open to anyone. The group meets quarterly and works to coordinate military and community efforts throughout the region.  Hamilton says it helps to put a human face on the issues presented in the DEIS.

But for some, like Kennie Gyurman who lives in and has decades of history in the bordering community of Tyrone, there’s nothing the Army can say that will earn his trust.  Gyurman considers himself pro-military, but he says the Army knows what it wants.

“You just can’t believe them,” said Gyurman.  “But after you’ve dealt with them for a while, you kind of know what to expect. These meetings keep them from thinking they’ve got a way of doing what they want to do without any resistance.  This is resistance, even if it sometimes doesn’t help out a lot.”

Comments made at this recent meeting are being entered into the record, as are other comments provided through mail and online.  The last day to submit comments is December 15th.

Listen to the full public meeting here:
 

To make a comment on the DEIS, write to Fort Carson NEPA Program Manager, Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division, 1626 Evans Street Building 1219, Fort Carson, Colo. 80913-4362; or, send an email to usarmy.carson.imcom-central.list.dpw-ed-nepa@mail.mil

To inquire about the Southern Colorado Working Group, contact Fort Carson Community Relations at 719-526-1246.

BLM

Fort Carson is in the process of working out a long-term agreement to use public land for high altitude helicopter training. KRCC’s Eliza Densmore reports.

Since 2010, Fort Carson has had annual agreements with the Bureau of Land Management for training northwest of Canon City. The Mountain Post recently submitted a proposal for a 20-year agreement, which is now under review.

BLM spokesman Kyle Sullivan says the proposal is entering a one month long public scoping period.

Fort Carson officials are encouraging personnel on the base to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behavior after two shots were heard on the Mountain Post Monday night, prompting increased security measures. Military police are investigating the reports that say the shots were heard near the northwest perimeter of the base just before 8:00 PM.  Officials say this was not an active shooter event, and there’s no immediate danger. No suspects are in custody.

Fort Carson is conducting a full-scale crisis exercise Tuesday and Wednesday.  The training is expected to feature a simulated car bomb near Prussman Chapel on the Mountain Post.

Those on base can expect road closures from 5 am until 3 pm Tuesday, specifically Prussman between Berkeley and McGrath, and Porter Street. McGrath will be down to one lane for about a block.  Detours may also be in place.

The annual exercise tests emergency response procedures.  Previous simulations include chemical spills, terrorist attacks, and winter weather.

Civilian workers across military installations in the Pikes Peak region are feeling the effects of the federal government shutdown.  At the Air Force Academy, more than 1,000 civilians are furloughed, while 450 employees are exempt and will continue to work.

In 2012, the U.S. military’s suicide rate surpassed combat deaths. Clinical Psychologist Craig Bryan has made suicide prevention his mission. This January, Dr. Bryan’s research brought him to Colorado Springs’ Fort Carson, where he was conducting his second study on mental health treatments. KRCC’s Andrea Chalfin sat down then to talk about his research–and how the very characteristics that make an effective soldier can also lead to increased suicide risk.

Army to Deactivate Brigade at Fort Carson

Jun 26, 2013

The U.S. Army yesterday announced plans to deactivate one of Fort Carson’s four Brigade Combat Teams by 2017.  The move would affect nearly 4,000 soldiers, but as KRCC’s Liz Ruskin reports, it’s not yet clear how many positions the Colorado Springs Army post would actually lose.