Community leaders: 'We support Fort Carson'
May 2, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- More than a dozen community leaders representing local, state and federal organizations attended the April 25 Army Force Structure and Stationing Listening Session hosted by Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson.
"We're here to hear what you have to say," said LaCamera, addressing the attendees in the roundtable discussion.
Throughout April, the Army held listening sessions at installations to hear from community leaders about the potential impact force reductions and restructuring would have on local economies. To meet the fiscal requirements set forth in the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Army is preparing to inactivate eight brigade combat teams and reduce the overall force by 80,000 by 2017.
LaCamera said the Army is in a period of "critical transition," and encouraged leaders to voice their observations and opinions regarding Fort Carson's role in the community.
"One-third of our economy is directly tied to the military," said Andy Merritt, chief defense industry officer, Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance.
According to a 2012 economic impact assessment, Fort Carson is the largest nonstate employer in Colorado, generating $2.2 billion in jobs, purchases, contracts and construction. It is estimated that for every Soldier, there exists 1.5 secondary jobs in the Pikes Peak area economy.
While more than 26,000 Soldiers and 5,800 civilians work at Fort Carson, Merritt said the post has further impact on the Pikes Peak community. He referenced the numerous nonprofits and organizations that came about to support military members and their Families. He discussed the school programs created to support military children.
"This community will stand behind Fort Carson and the Army," he said. "We have emotional ties to this post and its Soldiers."
Other leaders discussed the community development in support of Fort Carson troops, including the improvement of roads and access to post and the Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Complex, completed in February after years of coordination between community and Fort Carson leaders.
Terrance McWilliams, director of military and veteran affairs for the El Pomar Foundation, said Colorado Springs was among 20 cities nominated by the National Civic League for the "All-American City" award, partly because of its support for the military.
"The Warrior Games is a perfect example of (this nomination)," he said. "It was supposed to be a one-time event, but is now here permanently because of the outpouring of support."
Designed to introduce wounded servicemembers to paralympic sports, the Warrior Games is an annual event that takes place in the spring. Since the first Warrior Games in 2010, the program has grown to a weeklong competition featuring sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, swimming, cycling, track and field, archery and competitive shooting.
Leaders expressed concern reductions to the Soldier population and civilian jobs will have an extreme effect on the community.
"Colorado Springs has the second highest unemployment rate in the state," said Denny Cripps, Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance. "Cuts will have a disproportionate effect on the number of people facing unemployment."
Lt. Col. Patricia Tilson, Headquarters, Army Strategy, Plans and Policy, said she appreciated the community members sharing their feedback.
"It's very important," she said, adding that Secretary of the Army John McHugh takes community input seriously.
Leaders told Tilson that although a "vocal minority" may not appreciate the military presence, many citizens appreciate servicemembers and their contribution to the community.
"There's a silent majority out there that supports the military and Fort Carson," said Deforest Hamilton, former military affairs council chair. "I know it. Look at the people in this room who can attest to that."