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Discover: Military's influence huge in the Colorado Springs area

By: The Gazette
September 20, 2015 Updated: September 20, 2015 at 3:32 pm
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photo - The Air Force Academy's 57th Graduation Ceremony was held Thursday, May 28, 2015 at Falcon Stadium. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette
The Air Force Academy's 57th Graduation Ceremony was held Thursday, May 28, 2015 at Falcon Stadium. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

FORT CARSON

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The largest installation in the Pikes Peak region, Fort Carson boasts about 24,000 soldiers, most with the 4th Infantry Division, which arrived at Fort Carson in 2009, as well as more than 3,000 civilian employees, according to post documents.

And 42,000 more locals are related to soldiers stationed at Fort Carson.

Units stationed at the post were among the first to be deployed to Iraq in 2003 and the last to leave the country in 2011. Thousands of soldiers were also sent to Afghanistan to fight insurgents.

In 2015, the post's efforts were focused on Europe, where Fort Carson troops trained NATO troops.

About 70 percent of the post's soldiers live off base.

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE

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Located just north of the Colorado Springs Airport, Peterson Air Force Base is a hub for Air Force operations across North America. The base is home to U.S. Northern Command - charged with deterring terrorism and guiding the military's response to disasters - as well as the North American Aerospace Defense Command, a joint United States-Canada venture that keeps track of airspace over the continent. The base is also home to Air Force Space Command, which runs the nation's military satellites. One of the most visible activities at the base is the 302nd Airlift Wing, an Air Force reserve unit that uses C-130 aircraft to fight fires across the world. About 10,000 people work at the base, with about half of those civilians or contractors. There are 667 residences on the base.

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE

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Set about 10 miles east of Colorado Springs, Schriever Air Force Base is among the most protected and secretive bases in the country - housing several space operations programs. About 8,000 people work at the base, more than two-thirds of which are contractors or civilians. Operations at the base center around the military's satellites. Airmen at the installation are in charge of the military's Global Positioning System satellites, a network that has worked its way into the fabric of life for most Americans. The system offers a time stamp for credit cards, helps with the navigation of commercial airplanes and offers location data for companies such as Garmin. In recent years, 242 dwellings were constructed on the base.

UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY

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A fixture in the Pikes Peak region for 61 years, the Air Force Academy molds high school graduates into the newest batch of Air Force commissioned officers over four years at a sprawling installation north of the city. About 4,000 cadets attend the academy, which is led by Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson. About half of the roughly 1,000 cadets who graduate each year go on to pilot training - though their first flights often come in gliders that can be seen soaring above the above the academy. The academy's most iconic buildings include its chapel, an architectural marvel that hosts a variety of religious gatherings, including a Catholic Mass and Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist and Protestant services. The academy also hosts several NCAA Division I athletic teams, including a football team that won the Commander-in-Chief's trophy for beating Army and Navy in 2014. Notable graduates include Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief of staff, and Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who safely ditched U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River.

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION

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Though its mission has changed, the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station remains an installation steeped in secrecy and Cold War lore. The facility is tucked deep inside Cheyenne Mountain, and few people are allowed into the base that was designed to survive nuclear attack. About 1,100 people work there. Several buildings rest on massive springs inside the mountain, while a handful of reservoirs store water and diesel fuel in case the installation's blast doors must be shut in the event of an attack. The doors have only been shut once - on Sept. 11, 2001. The complex formerly housed the North American Aerospace Defense Command before the agency was largely moved in recent years to Peterson Air Force Base. Now just 5 percent of the workforce at the mountain falls under NORAD. But the place remains busy, and leaders say they are at full occupancy. Several Defense Department agencies still have operations in the mountain, but their work is mostly classified.

TOM ROEDER, THE GAZETTE, 636-0240, tom.roeder@gazette.com

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