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Fort Carson Losing Large Combat Brigade But Still Growing

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Fort Carson (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

Fort Carson (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

DENVER (AP) – Fort Carson is losing one of its large combat units as the Army downsizes, but the post should still have about 1,800 more soldiers by 2019 as part of a larger reorganization, the Army said Tuesday.

Fort Carson’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team is one of 12 brigades being cut at 12 installations in the U.S. and Europe.

The 3rd Brigade has about 3,800 soldiers. It’s part of the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, just outside Colorado Springs

About 3,000 of the 3rd Brigade’s troops will be absorbed by three remaining brigades at Fort Carson as the Army makes them larger to expand their abilities, the Army said.

Fort Carson is also getting a new helicopter brigade, which will further offset the loss of the 3rd Brigade.

“It could have been worse,” said Andy Merrit of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance. But he noted that with March’s automatic budget cuts remaining in place and other reductions in the works, there could be further cuts.

“That’s when the decisions become much harder for the Army,” he said.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., whose district includes much of Fort Carson, said he was disappointed by the loss of a brigade but said the setback is “considerably softened” by the fact that the post will grow overall.

“Downsizing at Fort Carson simply does not make sense,” he said.

Fort Carson officials said the moves were to be addressed in a speech later Tuesday. No statement was planned until then.

Overall, the Army expects to have 33 remaining active-duty combat brigades and 80,000 fewer soldiers in 2017 or later.

It’s difficult to assess the precise impact of the reduction on Fort Carson, the largest of at least nine active-duty military installations in Colorado. Some of the remaining Fort Carson units are growing, and the new helicopter unit, the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, is in the process of getting established, with only some of its soldiers already in place.

The helicopter brigade is expected to have up to 2,700 personnel and 113 aircraft. Fort Carson and the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site in Gypsum offer pilots the opportunity to train in mountainous settings.

Army statistics show Fort Carson would have 24,500 soldiers in fiscal 2019, after the cuts and reorganizations are complete. That represents a gain of nearly 8 percent from fiscal 2001.

Barring other changes, Fort Carson would still have three other combat brigade teams, an artillery brigade, a sustainment brigade and the new helicopter brigade within the 4th Infantry Division, along with the division’s headquarters battalion.

Fort Carson also has the 10th Special Forces Group and engineering, transportation, ordinance and medical units.

Separately, Fort Carson announced that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno will visit the post Thursday and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will visit Friday. Odierno will preside over a promotion ceremony and Hagel will take questions from about 150 soldiers.

- By Dan Elliott, AP Writer

Associated Press Writer Nicholas Riccardi contributed to this report.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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