Report shows Pinon Canyon hosts about one big exercise each year
October 17, 2007
PUEBLO – Military reports show the Army has conducted large-scale training exercises at its Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site an average of about once a year, prompting opponents to again question the need to nearly triple the size of the 368-square-mile site.The documents show Pinon Canyon has been used for about 30 big exercises since 1985, the Pueblo Chieftain reported in its Wednesday editions.The after-action reports, compiled after the exercises were over, were obtained by the Pinon Canyon Expansion Oppod sition Coalition through the Freedom of Information Act.The Army wants to expand the site to about 1,000 square miles, citing an influx of 8,000 additional soldiers at Fort Carson by 2011.Some nearby ranch owners fear the expansion would force them to sell property that has been in their families for generations. They say losing so much land from agricultural production will hurt the region’s economy, and they argue the Army isn’t making good use of the space it already has.Lt. Col. Jim Rice, who has been overseeing expansion planning, said the site has been used by 200,000 soldiers since 1997, including many smaller exercises by company-size and smaller units.The Army has also said it needs the additional space to train on modern weapons and tactics.”When I was in Iraq as deputy commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, we were responsible for an area of about 30,000 square miles,” Rice said.The reports show the site has been used only once since 2003. Rice said that’s because Fort Carson soldiers have been fighting in Iraq.”Since 2001, we really haven’t used Pinon Canyon because all of our units based at Fort Carson have been in the fight,” he said. “All wars eventually will end and we aren’t looking at expanding Pinon Canyon for this war, but for the future training needs of the Army.”Lon Robertson, a rancher from Kim who leads an opposition group, said the Army hasn’t used the current site enough.”So now we’re supposed to give up our land because they say they will use it more often in the future? My answer is, our families need the land right now, absolutely, positively,” he said.Rice said the Army has no plans to duplicate the exercises done at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., because it would be too expensive.The California site has a permanent garrison of troops who play the enemy during training, and commanders are able to watch individual soldiers during exercises using cameras set up on the large desert ranges.