by Bill Knowles
COLORADO SPRINGS- Senator Mark Udall, in a teleconference on Monday, discussed statewide impact of Fort Carson becoming home to the 13th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB).
“For Fort Carson that means the post will see an increase of 2,700 new soldiers and 113 helicopters,” Udall said during the teleconference. The brigade will begin arriving in fiscal year 2013 and ending in fiscal year 2014.
“This means that… the Fourth Infantry Division will be able to train like they fight. Because modern combat depends heavily on Army Aviation our soldiers must train in and around helicopters before they deploy in an environment that mirrors conditions they will face out in the theater.”
The expansion at Fort Carson means the existing training site at Piñon Canyon may be seeing a higher level of activity in the future. On March 10, Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet asked the Army for written clarification of the Army’s intent regarding Piñon Canyon. John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army, responded in a letter saying the military “has no plans to expand the boundaries of PCMS and, accordingly, has not requested any funds be programmed in the Department of the Army budget (FY12-16) for the acquisition of land at PCMS over the next five years.”
Udall said, “The Army is currently in the process of putting their plan together for the use of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site… this decision was based in part on the training capacity of Piñon Canyon being available for the Army.”
“There are also other areas in Colorado in which the Army trains. The Hatch site in Eagle County is another area in which there is aviation training for mountainous environments.”
“But I am confident that the Army will be forth coming and not go outside legally established use limits that are now in place for PCMS.” Udall said. “I believe that they have no plans to expand…”
Many area ranchers, farmers and land owners have voiced concern that the increased level of use by the new CAB will increase the amount of damage to the land. The Army is conducting an environmental assessment to determine the impact of greater levels of training.
Residents of southern Colorado have also called for revocation of the existing Department of Defense (DOD) land acquisition waiver used to begin – but not authorize – the first steps of any potential land acquisition process. Revocation of the waiver could cause complications for DOD acquisitions in other parts of the U.S., which is why Udall and Bennet asked for written clarification of the Army’s intent for Piñon Canyon.