FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Fort Carson is a major player when it comes to the state's economy, but Gov. John Hickenlooper said it's important not to lose perspective of what Mountain Post warriors are doing to protect the nation's freedom.
Hickenlooper, who made his first official visit to the post Feb. 10 as part of his economic development tour, said the state's goal should be to make Fort Carson the No. 1 training center in the U.S. military.
"From my point of view, everyone in Colorado is a patriot, and we all have a vested interest in making sure that we do everything we can to protect and preserve the freedom in this country," he said during a media opportunity near Gate 1.
"(We have) to make sure that those in the military who are defending our freedom have the best training possible at the lowest possible cost, and that they get the first-class, most-effective opportunities to make sure that ... when they're out risking (their lives) to defend this country, that they have the best equipment, the best training, the absolute best of everything."
The governor said the state is fortunate to have Fort Carson, noting it has become a sustaining part of the economy throughout Southern Colorado.
"In many ways, Fort Carson is the link between Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and as we look at how we get those communities to work together for the joint economic development, Fort Carson should be an active part," Hickenlooper said.
The governor, who was accompanied on the visit by Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the adjutant general of Colorado, said he had "fruitful" discussions with Fort Carson and he looks forward to a "rapid and steep" learning curve as he gains a better understanding of the state's military installations.
"I found it illuminating just to be able to walk through and look at all the different roles and activities going on at Fort Carson. I was tremendously impressed by the quality of just everything they are doing here," Hickenlooper said.
He said his goal is to ensure Colorado gives Fort Carson its maximum support.
"We recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of these warriors, and we want to make sure we do our part, that they are as well prepared as humanly possible when they go out to defend this country."
The governor also addressed the possibility of Fort Carson adding a combat aviation brigade and the expansion of the PiAfA+-on Canyon Maneuver Site.
Noting that it really is a "competition" to get a CAB, Hickenlooper said he must become more knowledgeable on the advantages of having an aviation brigade at Fort Carson so that he can make his voice heard.
"(There are a) lot of natural attributes at Fort Carson that is going to make (adding one here) very attractive," he said.
"(I need to) become more knowledgeable and figure out the advantages of why a CAB should be here, and I think there are a number of them; I will figure out the best ears where my voice can be useful."
As for PiAfA+-on Canyon, the governor said the focus needs to switch from concern over expansion to a productive relationship between the military and the surrounding communities.
"It is pretty clear for the foreseeable future that the expansion is off the table. To keep talking about that isn't really constructive," he said.
He said the focus should be on getting the maximum utilization of the existing facility that benefits the local community so that it becomes part of the community in the same way Fort Carson is in El Paso County.
"There is a general appreciation for Fort Carson that obviously in Southern Colorado doesn't exist yet. I'm not sure why it doesn't exist; sure there are a lot of misunderstandings," he said.
Edwards said the governor is devoting a lot of time and effort to learn more about the military as rapidly as possible and that the key message the governor would take from the visit is how proud he should be of the Soldiers serving at Fort Carson.
Brig. Gen. James H. Doty, acting senior commander, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, expressed his gratitude for the governor and adjutant general to take the time to visit Fort Carson.
"I appreciate (them) taking the time to come out and learn more about what our warriors - active, Guard and Reserve, are all doing in support of the defense of the nation and we look forward to a long and prosperous partnership with the governor and his staff."