Pikes Peak region charities look at plans to team up in helping troops
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Fort Carson soldiers are honored Wednesday, July 9, 2014, before the start of the first night of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

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Fort Carson will get more than 800 new troops in the coming months as the Army adds a brigade with expertise in training foreign militaries.

The move will elevate troop numbers on Fort Carson above 25,000 - the most soldiers in Colorado Springs since the Vietnam War. It also will give the post the Army's newest kind of unit - dubbed a security force assistance brigade - designed to train, advise and assist U.S. allies.

"It's a win for national security," said U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, who for months has lobbied Army leaders to bring the troops to Colorado Springs.

The first of the 816 soldiers in the unit and the 1,200 family members expected to accompany them will be on the way to Fort Carson as soon as this summer. An exact timeline hasn't been released.

Colorado's Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said he also leaned on the Army to get the new unit to Fort Carson.

"I'm thrilled that this is becoming a reality," Gardner said in an email.

"It further demonstrates the important role Fort Carson has for our national security and military readiness as the men and women of this brigade will contribute to missions with allied nations and partners around the world."

Fort Carson Maj. Gen. Randy George said the new unit is a good fit for the post.

"It just makes sense when you consider Fort Carson's premier training range areas, excellent high-altitude location and extremely supportive community," George said in an email.

The Army said the new brigade's troops will be "among the most highly trained tactical leaders in the Army."

The soldiers, who will be equipped with the Army's latest gear, will be trained in language, foreign weapons, and artillery and aerial combat coordination.

While the brigade's primary mission is training foreign troops, it also will be ready to serve as the cadre for a new, 4,000-soldier combat brigade if the Army has to expand to meet a crisis, the Army said.

Colorado's Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet issued a statement praising the Army move.

"Fort Carson leadership and the surrounding communities have made Colorado the best place to train, live, and work," he said. "We're confident the Army's security force assistance mission will benefit from the superb soldiers who call Colorado home."

It's the latest in a string of wins for local military bases.

Last month, the Pentagon ordered the move of 150 troops to Schriever Air Force Base from California. The troops, part of the Joint Force Space Component Command, are part of the Pikes Peak region's growing role in control of military satellite efforts.

Schriever also is home to the new National Space Defense Center, which became operational this year. The center, with workers from the Air Force and intelligence agencies, devises plans to protect military satellites from enemy attack.

Peterson Air Force Base this year is getting a new 100-member Colorado National Guard satellite squadron.

The military boom, though, is not without risk. Pentagon planners are determining whether Fort Carson will get to keep its 4,000-soldier 2nd Brigade Combat Team after the unit transitions from ground-pounding infantry to tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles upon its return from Afghanistan late this year.

While insiders say the unit is expected to remain in Colorado Springs, lawmakers from Kansas and Texas have leaned heavily on the Pentagon in a bid to get the unit moved.

A decision on 2nd Brigade's fate is expected by the end of July.

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Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240

Twitter: @xroederx

Senior Military Editor

Tom Roeder is the Gazette's senior military editor. In Colorado Springs since 2003, Tom covers seven military installations in Colorado, including five in the Pikes Peak region. His main job, though, is being dad to two great kids.

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