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The Gazette May 14, 2005

Fort Carson scrambles to handle influx

By Tom Roeder

The flags and patches haven’t been figured out, but Fort Carson will get a divisiontype headquarters and a brigade as part of the Army’s biggest troop shift since the end of the Cold War.

The units from Fort Hood, Texas, will add 4,377 military and civilian workers to Fort Carson. The additional troops will boost the post’s rolls to nearly 24,000 soldiers, a level not seen since Vietnam. Commanders on Friday said they are scrambling to build enough chow halls, barracks and office buildings for the influx.

“It’s good news for Fort Carson and good news for the community,” said Col. Michael Resty, the post’s garrison commander.

Since September, the Pentagon has added more than 8,000 soldiers to Fort Carson, including the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which is relocating to Fort Carson this summer. The Pentagon recommended Friday that the relocation of 2nd Brigade be permanent.

John Pike, executive director of GlobalSecurity.org, said the Army’s base closure plan wound up with more moving than mothballing.

“The amount of realignment is mind-boggling, but there’s not much closure to write home about,” he said.

The additions have Fort Carson ranking with some of the Army’s largest installations, including Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Lewis, Wash.

In terms of growth, Fort Carson was one of the Army’s biggest winners, outstripping increases at posts including Fort Riley, Kan., and Fort Rucker, Ala. The biggest gains were at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Belvoir, Va., which will each add 11,000 troops.

Some major details of the growth at Fort Carson are yet to be decided. The Pentagon report that announced the addition said the troops will arrive after October 2006.

Resty expects that Carson’s work to support additional troops will start immediately.

“Any influx of this magnitude . . . requires some determined planning,” he said.

The newest 3,700-soldier brigade is coming from Fort Hood, Texas, and will be a carbon copy of Fort Carson’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The twin brigades will each have 55 tanks, 85 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and supporting gear.

The names and unit designations are up in the air because the Army is in the middle of a massive reorganization. The changes include rebuilding brigades so they can fight independently without supporting units and redrawing divisiontype organizations so they can go to war with brigades from bases across the country.

The Army also will add 10 brigades, including one activated in Texas last fall. The Pentagon pointed to that Fort Hood unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, as the one that will probably move here.

Rather than worrying about patches and flags, Resty said he’s fretting over housing needs and traffic concerns.

To accommodate the 2nd Brigade, the post has renovated several barracks buildings. In a war spending plan signed by President Bush this week, Fort Carson got an additional $26 million to build barracks.

In the past two years, the Pentagon has allocated $150 million for building projects at the post. An additional $30 million is being sought to buy conservation easements to prevent development along Fort Carson’s southern boundary.

Private investments are also expected to build more family housing at the base. Now, Fort Carson houses are built and maintained by a contractor paid by the government.

Fort Carson officials also want to reduce traffic tie-ups. Nearly three-quarters of soldiers live off-post. One option, Resty said, would be to expand gates that ring the post to accommodate more cars.

The soldiers will also need more elbow room to prepare for war. Resty confirmed that Fort Carson is considering buying land to expand its 235,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site near Trinidad. Details were not available, he said.


Copyright 2005, The Gazette, a division of Freedom Colorado Information