We're assured by U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn that the possible addition of a new aviation brigade at Fort Carson isn't in any way contingent on the future expansion of the Pinon Canyon training area -- at least that's the official line coming from the Pentagon. But one can't help wonder, and worry a little, about whether the anti-Army venom that has come to taint so much of the rhetoric from expansion opponents won't in this case come back to haunt Colorado.
I'm not sure how much controversy relocation of the brigade will stir in Tacoma, Washington, where Joint Base Lewis-McChord is also in the running to serve as host. I'm betting an influx of nearly 3,000 new soldiers will be met with cheers, parades and keys to the city. But here in southern Colorado, the polarizing nature of the Pinon Canyon debate, and the increasingly anti-Army tone it has assumed, could tilt the competition in Tacoma's favor.
No one at the Pentagon will say this. If Joint Base Lewis-McChord wins the competition, it will do so based strictly on the merits, or so military officials will tell us. But you can bet that what's been going on out here -- including local opposition to the brigade from Colorado Springs peace activists -- hasn't gone unnoticed in Washington. Some military brass undoubtedly are wondering how once-welcoming Southern Colorado became such hostile territory. Such noisy opposition, even if it's the minority view, can't help but raise yellow flags, which will only increase our vulnerability when the next round of base closures and realignments comes along.
If you were making the call, and everything else was equal, wouldn't you send the soldiers where you know they'll be unconditionally welcomed? Why would you send more soldiers to a training facility of limited future utility?
Of course, not everyone who's anti-expansion is anti-Army. But the willingness of certain leaders to tolerate (and pander to) the increasingly-militant, anti-Army rhetoric of Pinon Canyon protesters isn't improving Fort Carson's chances of landing the new brigade. Our cause isn't helped by the fact that so many of Colorado's senior leaders (including Senators Udall and Bennet and U.S. Rep. John Salazar) have closed minds concerning Pinon Canyon expansion. It's a reminder of how irresponsible and reckless rhetoric, employed for short-term political gain, can do real and lasting harm.