By Mr. Douglas M Rule (IMCOM)February 11, 2009
FORT CARSON, Colo.-Fort Carson in conjunction with the Colorado Springs Independent, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, El Pomar Foundation and Pikes Peak Community College held the 4th Annual Fort Carson Community Town Hall Meeting Feb. 6 at PPCC.
An overview session was held with breakout sessions following. Between sessions, attendees could talk with area organizations, which had displays throughout the college's main building.
Rob Quirk, news anchor from KOAA-TV, emceed the event, noting that streaming video of the sessions would be available on the station's Web site, www.koaa.com, the following week. Quirk also moderated a breakout session featuring Maj. Gen. Mark A. Graham, commanding general, Division West (First Army) and Fort Carson.
During the opening session, Graham spoke to the audience about upcoming changes to the Mountain Post, most importantly the movement of the 4th Infantry Division to Fort Carson, bringing an additional 6,500 Soldiers to the area this year, many with their Families, for a total of approximately 16,400 newcomers. Graham stressed that more than 70 percent of those Families will be living off post and this should be a boost to the sagging housing economy. Graham also detailed other troop movements and the importance of working with the local community.
"This is such a great process that we are doing today. We are talking with you to find out what we can do to make things better for our Soldiers and their Families to move here. How can we help, how can we make this a smooth transition'" he said. "Our work with the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments is a major way we stay connected (to the local communities) and in moving forward and staying synchronized."
The PPACG discussed the regional approach the organization is taking in regards to growth, both with Fort Carson and the civilian population. According to the presentation, PPACG is composed of 15 different members representing cities and counties in the area, including Pueblo, El Paso and Teller counties. Members consider all issues, such as transportation, from a regional aspect rather than city specific.
Robert MacDonald, deputy director of the PPACG, discussed one such issue, which was the construction of the I-25 interchange at Fort Carson Gate 20 and the roads leading up to it. He said that through cooperation with Fort Carson, the federal and Colorado state governments and the local communities, a solution for the continuing problem of traffic congestion was solved in an expedient manner. The congestion not only affected Fort Carson, but was affecting local commuters as well. By helping to expedite the construction, Fort Carson Soldiers and civilians as well as the civilian population at large benefitted.
Nongovernmental community organizations, like the El Pomar Foundation, were also represented with ideas on how the community could better serve the Fort Carson Soldiers. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Terrance McWilliams, military liaison for El Pomar, stressed the importance of coordinating efforts. Matt Heard, senior pastor of the Woodmen Valley Chapel, told how he and his church became involved.
"Three years ago, I posed a question to the 1,000 folks at the Woodmen Valley Chapel. I posed to them, 'Hypothetically, if Woodmen Valley Chapel would cease to exist overnight, would we be missed by the larger community of Colorado Springs'' The winces told the answer. We sat down and came up with a plan to make sure that we were known as much for our deeds as for our words," he said.
Heard said that the members of the church then mobilized, doing what they could for the Soldiers, developing relationships with Fort Carson and the community. Among the activities the congregation has done is putting on a family fun night for the Families of deployed Soldiers. He also said that 85 high school students from the church came down and made beds for the Soldiers, so they wouldn't have to return to a room that had to be made up and the church members made up 2,000 toiletry bags for returning Soldiers as well.
"All these initiatives have given us an insight of the privilege we have to serve this greater community, this community called Fort Carson," he said. "This is not just for us, but for any of the other organizations out there: it is a privilege to serve these great American heroes and make this community stronger in concert with the other folks around us."