FORT CARSON, Colo. (AP) — The new commander of Fort Carson said Friday that Army training exercises at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site are vital for soldiers’ safety in combat.
“If we don’t properly train them, they die,” Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson told reporters at Fort Carson, an infantry post just outside Colorado Springs.
Anderson reiterated the Army’s position that it has no plans for at least five years to expand the 370-square-mile site, which is about 120 miles southeast of Fort Carson. Fort Carson soldiers get some of their training there.
“No one’s asking for an acre. No one’s asking for an inch,” Anderson said.
The Army’s on-again, off-again expansion efforts at Pinon Canyon have angered some farmers and ranchers in the area, who say it would hurt the local economy by taking too much land out of agricultural use.
Anderson said he will meet with residents from the Pinon Canyon area next week and said he understood their concerns.
Army leaders previously said they needed more land to accommodate more troops and new weapons and tactics. But in January, Fort Carson’s acting commander, Brig. Gen. James Doty, said the plan was off the table because of looming budget cuts and because the Army had decided that future large-scale, live-fire exercises would take place only at one post in California and another in Louisiana.
In March, Army Secretary John McHugh said the service was suspending the expansion effort for five years.
Anderson said Friday that it would be “almost unpatriotic” to oppose all training at Pinon Canyon. When asked to elaborate, he said he wasn’t aware of anyone who opposed all training at the site.
Anderson said that before taking command at Fort Carson last month, he was told by “numerous sources” in Washington about an anti-military sentiment in Colorado — demonstrated by opposition to Pinon Canyon expansion and to an expected increase in helicopter flights once a combat aviation brigade is established at Fort Carson.
He didn’t identify his sources. But Anderson said he had not seen any anti-military sentiment in Colorado Springs.
“I’ve never seen a community so caring and generous,” he said.
Anderson replaced Maj. Gen. David Perkins as commander of Fort Carson and the 4th Infantry Division. Perkins moved on to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to command the Combined Arms Center.
By Dan Elliott, AP Writer (© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)