ANDERSON: Army more mature, capable than ever

ERIN PRATER Updated: March 10, 2013 at 12:00 am • Published: March 10, 2013

In February, The Gazette sat down with Maj. Gen. Joseph Anderson, commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, to learn about the 31-year Army veteran who has served at Fort Carson since November 2011, as well as the post he commands.

The Army has since announced that Maj. Gen. Paul LaCamera will take over as commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division and the Mountain Post on Thursday.

This is the first installment in a periodic series of question-and-answer articles with top local military commanders.

Question: What are some of the ways Fort Carson soldiers are contributing to the community?

Anderson: Our guys do all the cooking for the Sertoma Street Breakfast. We do a bunch of events like the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and the Range Ride. Our mounted color guard and band support about a gazillion events around here, like parades. I don’t think the Adopt-A-School program gets enough attention. We have 35 schools that we sponsor. Soldiers do everything from tutoring and mentoring to administering the president’s physical fitness test. Also, we are the police and fire service for a large section of Highway 115. There’s so much that goes on between us and the community.

Read a guest column from Maj. Gen. Anderson HERE

Q: How is Fort Carson keeping up with the times, so to speak?

Anderson: We test lots of programs for the Army.

The 2nd Brigade tested sensors on helmets in Afghanistan to determine how to better gauge the severity of individual cases of traumatic brain injury. We’re always trying to figure that out by the size of the craters. …

This sensor we tested measures the magnitude of the blast. It’s very similar to what the NFL does — measuring not how long you’re knocked out, but the severity of the connection between helmets. That helps doctors figure out how to treat.

This post leads the way on embedded behavioral health teams. Yeah, we have the hyperbaric oxygen chamber to deal with things like traumatic brain injury.

When it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health care — providers, social workers, psychiatrists and chaplains are all working together at a behavioral health clinic on our Resiliency Campus. Pharmacists come in there and do monthly reviews of the medicines soldiers are on. It’s a fairly comprehensive effort. Soldiers don’t have to go to the hospital. This helps reduce stigma and gives them a one-stop shop. We’re trying to tackle the problem in a consolidated manner, in a convenient manner, and in a partnership with the chain of command. … That is a leading edge for the Army.

On the Army side of the house, we’re cutting-edge because the 1st Brigade is the second brigade to do a decisive-action rotation at the National Training Center in November. It set all kinds of records and new standards about how you prepare for full-spectrum warfare, not counter insurgency. Force on force, attack, defend, stability and support operations, wide area security — very difficult, demanding, like a Desert Shield-, Desert Storm-era battle. A Korea-type battle. Not a counter insurgency in Afghanistan. So we’re very proud of them. …

We’re now getting back into the fray in terms of how you fight the old-fashioned way. Obviously, you do that with new toys like unmanned aerial systems, robotics — all that state-of-the-art stuff. We have all of the toys. But how do you go back to conventional, if you will, force-on-force battles?

Q: What are some of your biggest fears regarding sequestration and the potential effects it might have on Fort Carson?

Anderson: Sequestration is only going to magnify the problem we have with the continuing resolution.

If you’re funded at last year’s levels and this year everything costs more, obviously we have a problem. Sequestration just means you’re going to pile more on there.

It’s affecting our ability to reset from deployment. And it has the potential to affect the units as they get ready to go on deployments, though prioritization is supposed to not allow that.

When it comes to the training centers and non-associated deployment rotations, the course of action will be to take it off the books, or do a modified version that’s cheaper. The guys going (to the National Training Center) this summer are going to ride in buses versus going on airplanes. That saves a tremendous amount of money. ... They’ve gone on buses before.

I tell people that many of us have lived some of this stuff before. It won’t kill you to ride a bus. You’ll live. The issue is to make sure the training is appropriate, effective, not the fact that you ride on Delta Airlines.

There may be some deferred maintenance issues. We’ve been there before. We can deal with that as long as we have the resources to make sure that the people who are deploying have what they need.

Q: With the war in Iraq over and the war in Afghanistan winding down, we’ll soon transition to a garrison army. How do the end of the wars change the face of Fort Carson?

Anderson: None of that affects us right now. There are other missions besides Afghanistan. As each of these divisions become regionally-aligned with a combatant commander, the pace of our requirements is not going to decrease. …

Right now this theater reserve mission in Kuwait takes this division out into 2015. For the next two years plus, nothing’s changing here. It’s different than going to Afghanistan and doing COIN (counter insurgency), but we’re deploying.

Q: The 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War is approaching. How did the war change your life?

Anderson: It sucked a lot of life out of me, all the time I spent over there. I served there three times. I grew as a colonel to a one star to a two star between 2003 and 2010 — 42 months’ worth. … It was an education that you really can’t get at Pikes Peak Community College or in Colorado Springs.

It was very, very developmental for me — rewarding, and developmental. And in the end, you know, the disappointment with Iraq is not having a continuing relationship with them. We do have an office of security cooperation which is in the embassy, which is good. But it’s only about 75 people.

For everybody in the Army, these are all very developmental deployments that have really made our Army the most mature, experienced, capable Army there’s ever been.

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