Colorado Springs is a military town. Currently, more than one in five locals are military enlistees and officers; civilians working on one of four local installations, or for Department of Defense contractors; retired military personnel; or dependents of the above individuals.
Due to the Pentagon's military base realignments, an estimated 25,000 new soldiers and dependents will soon call our home their home. The impact of these new arrivals will be huge, especially for neighborhoods near Fort Carson, as well as for those civic, business and government organizations that cater to soldiers. Another ramification will be that our economy will become even more reliant on federal military spending.
With the uncertainties surrounding the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ETA of the new troops is still very much in flux. And so long as we are a nation at war, many of our new arrivals will regularly leave Colorado Springs for Iraq and/or Afghanistan. (Sixty percent of soldiers currently based at Fort Carson have been deployed multiple times to those war zones.)
So unless significant changes in policy are made at the federal level something unlikely to occur up to 10,000 new soldiers, along with an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 spouses and 8,000 to 9,000 children, will relocate to the Pikes Peak region during the next few years.
In addition, there will be more than 7,500 new civilian jobs related to the increased deployment at Fort Carson not only in the construction sector building new roads, schools, apartments and homes, but also in delivery trucks, garages and health care centers.
More than two-thirds of incoming troops will be between ages 17 and 29, with the average age being 23. More than 1,500 will be too young to (legally) drink a beer.
The vast majority will be enlistees, or "grunts," as they are sometimes called in the Army: the privates, specialists, corporals and low-ranking sergeants. They are on the front lines in war zones, die in higher numbers than officers, and earn less money. An estimated 15 percent of the new soldiers will be female.
Fewer than one-third of the new arrivals will be housed on base. Where will the other 70 percent live? Where will their children go to school? What will be the impact on local roads? Community colleges? Maternity wards? Emergency rooms? Drug counseling centers? Domestic violence agencies?
How will the expected $5 billion-plus that's billion, with a B of additional spending over the next half-decade impact local construction companies, liquor stores, car and motorcycle dealers, paycheck advancement operations, traditional banks, credit counseling agencies and rock clubs?
To help answer these questions, the Colorado Springs Independent is hosting a town hall meeting. The gathering, free and open to the public, will take place from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 15, at the Antlers Hilton. Short presentations will be provided by a variety of experts, including Fort Carson's Maj. Gen. Robert Mixon. The event will be moderated by Mike Miles, current Harrison School District Two superintendent and retired Army Ranger.
A social hour following the town hall meeting will provide networking opportunities with key military and civilian decision-makers.
Fort Carson Expansion Town Hall Meeting
Antlers Hilton, 4 S. Cascade Ave.
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 4 - 6:30 p.m.
Light refreshments provided; Antlers hotel parking validated. For more information, contact Renee at 439-7544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Host a soldier
Since before the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Independent has been an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq. We wanted America and its allies to launch a U.N.-sanctioned total blockade, with the only thing allowed in being humanitarian aid. Lots of it. We believe that such a plan would have reduced the human and environmental costs in Iraq.
But now is not a time for hindsight. No matter what your position is on the war, it is of critical importance that community members of all political orientations come together to reach out to our new neighbors. About 60 percent of the new soldiers will arrive with a spouse, children or both. An estimated 7 percent of enlistees will be single parents. These families will be living in a new town, far from supporting relatives, and most will be facing the added tension that comes from one family member being deployed overseas.
To promote neighborliness, the Independent is proud to partner with a wonderful organization, Citizen Soldier Connection, which matches locals interested in welcoming the new soldiers and their families to our community. While Citizen Soldier Connection seeks volunteer hosts of all ages, there is an especially strong need for families with young children to welcome soldiers and their families to the Pikes Peak region.
During 2007, the Independent will work with Citizen Soldier Connection to host a variety of family-friendly events aimed at providing a welcoming atmosphere for soldiers and citizens to get acquainted. Our first event will be at the Business of Art Center's Venue 515, following the Manitou Springs Carnivale parade on the afternoon of Saturday, Feb. 17. Clown and comic extraordinaire Jim Jackson will be the master of ceremonies.
To volunteer to connect with a newly arriving soldier, please call 667-2883 or visit citizensoldierconnection.org.