By Rick Emert, Fort Carson MountaineerMarch 18, 2009
FORT CARSON, Colo. Aca,!" The Army's assistant secretary for installations and environment visited Fort Carson March 13 to view the progress of preparations for the 4th Infantry Division's restationing.
Keith Eastin viewed construction projects for the division's headquarters buildings, maintenance facilities and barracks. Overall, the construction, much of which is already complete, will cost more than $2 billion and has generated thousands of jobs, he said.
"We have (completed) buildings that are vacant and will be vacant for exactly two more months, and it's good to take a look at these over time and see if they are ready," Eastin said during a press conference with local media. "It's a massive job-producing enterprise we have out here for the local community, what I would estimate somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 jobs alone in our construction here at Fort Carson. It's a significant operation, and it needs some oversight."
When all is said and done, the restationing will bring about 11,000 new Soldiers and 17,000 Family members to the Mountain Post.
"I am told that everything is ready for them, and, from what I saw this morning, everything is ready for them," Eastin said.
The restationing process has been ongoing for several years, said Col. Eugene Smith, garrison commander, Fort Carson.
"The 4th Infantry Division restationing here is the major piece of ... three-five years of planning," Smith said.
The Mountain Post is gearing up for the arrival of 5th Brigade, 4th ID, by 2011.
"We will start construction of that complex, doing the groundwork this spring. We have to be complete by 2011. We're well on track for that," said Smith.
Eastin also visited Fort Carson's two-megawatt solar array, which is the largest in the Army.
"The Army is putting a great deal of concentration now on alternative forms of energy. We use a lot of electricity, and we have the largest solar array of anywhere in the Army right out here at Fort Carson," Eastin said. "It provides some, but nowhere near all, of the electricity we need here. It's been a wonderful addition here, and we hope to replicate that elsewhere in the Army."
A much larger solar array is being proposed for Fort Irwin, Calif., he said.
"We had a request for proposals at Fort Irwin ... in the Mojave Desert. We're talking about putting a 500-megawatt solar project in Fort Irwin, massively larger than this. But, you don't take big steps until you take small ones; we're taking a small one here, and it's working out wonderfully."
Eastin also spoke to the media about the potential expansion of PiAfA+-on Canyon Maneuver Site, which has been heavily reported by news outlets in southern Colorado.
"Contrary to what has been reported in some of the media, there is no deal made for any part of any expansion of PiAfA+-on Canyon," Eastin said. "What we are doing is looking at leasing some property down there, not buying it from the landowners, but leasing it for a long term. And, a long term ... lease accomplishes several things."
Among those are leaving ownership of the land with the landowner and avoiding changes to how the remaining land outside of the training area would be taxed. It also will allow the landowner to set the conditions of the lease Eastin said.
"One of those conditions, and they're all related, is to provide some sort of permanent presence there. This is going to be a state-of-the-art, computerized range, and it's going to take people to operate it," Eastin said.
The staff that would operate such a complex training area would bolster the local economy.
"They will live in the area, occupy houses, buy houses, shop at the local grocery store and buy gas at the local gas stations. We're looking at a total of maybe $9 million a year added to the Las Animas County's economy," he said.
One thing that won't happen in the potential expansion of PCMS is the seizure of any land, Eastin said.
"The Army has committed that we will not take land from anybody other than a willing landowner who wants to deal with us," he said. "We will not take it. We will not condemn it. We will not do any of that in connection with the addition of land to the PiAfA+-on Canyon area."
The bottom line, Eastin said, is that the expanded training area would improve Soldiers' ability to fight effectively in combat.
"People tend to miss the point here," he said. "What we're trying to do in PiAfA+-on Canyon is to provide a state-of-the-art range where our Soldiers can train. So, when they go to Afghanistan, Iraq or wherever the next conflict is; when they go over there and get on the ground, they are ready to go.
"We want them to be totally ready for it when they get over there. That's what this is all about. We're trying to solve the property rights issue and all of the other concerns with the locals, but, at the same time, be able to train our Soldiers so when they are in harm's way, they are ready for it."