In suits and ties, three former top military leaders from the Pikes Peak region told a luncheon crowd that they've learned a lot since they traded in their stars for civilian life.
Air Force retirees Gen. William Shelton and Lt. Gen. Mike Gould were joined by retired Army Gen. Chuck Jacoby at the event sponsored by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance's Military Affairs Council. They answered questions about the past and future for the military and talked about their lives since they hung up the uniform.
"My awareness of what goes on in this community has grown exponentially," said Gould, who stepped down as Air Force Academy superintendent in 2013.
Shelton said that after leaving his job as head of Air Force Space Command in 2014, he has seen how differently the civilian world works compared to the military. Civilians, he said, change direction quickly. Changing the path of a military organization with more than 30,000 airmen and civilians can take years or generations.
"Overcoming inertia is nigh unto impossible with the bureaucracy we have," he said.
Jacoby said he has seen the gulf between the civilian and military worlds since he left the top job at U.S. Northern Command in 2014.
"I didn't know how disconnected we were as a military society from civilian society," he said.
The goal of the business alliance military luncheons is to bridge the gap between the military and local government and business leaders, said Mark Volcheff, head of the Military Affairs Council and a retired Air Force two-star general. Volcheff peppered the generals with questions during the gathering focused on the military's future in the Pikes Peak region.
Jacoby said that if the Pentagon moves to close bases, Colorado Springs could gain rather than lose. He thinks troops could be pulled to the region from elsewhere.
"We want to put our hand up and say send your wandering units and capabilities to Colorado," he said.
Shelton agreed. "I think Colorado is in a great position," he said.
Gould listed some of the reasons why the Pentagon is in love with the Pikes Peak region.
"This city is legendary for its support of the military," he said. "When airmen find out they are being assigned to Colorado Springs, they are excited and they want to stay here forever."
All three generals, though, remain worried about the military's future.
Jacoby said automatic spending cuts carve into the ability of troops to train for combat.
"It's a horrible way to run the government," he said of the cuts. "It is every side taking the easy way out."
Gould said the nation needs to make sure children are physically fit enough to serve in the military if they choose that path. He warned of a generation that spends more time on video games than outdoor sports.
Shelton also expressed worry about the state of American politics, which he said has hampered Air Force efforts to shutter bases.
"We know where to save money, but we can't save money because there's politics and constituencies involved," he said.
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240