Colorado Springs' five military installations integral to tracking terrorists

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“We let our guard down,” said Jeff Crank. “We have this Pollyanna attitude that nothing can happen to us. Now, we’re going to spend billions (of dollars) more because we didn’t spend it on the front end, and it cost us a lot of lives.”

Crank, a former aide to District 5 State Senator Joel Hefley, lost two friends at the Pentagon and four other friends are missing, he said. One of his friends who was listed as dead was in the Pentagon when the airplane hit the building while the other deceased was on the airplane that hit the building. Crank, who is vice president of governmental affairs at the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, hasn’t been able to contact the four friends listed as missing.

Closer to home, Crank said he believes that the five local military installations are well protected and guarded. He admits, however, that this type of attack could happen to anyone in any place in the United States.

“Nobody’s completely safe but our installations are — with Space Command — integral as to how we are going to combat this thing with spy satellites that can track terrorists to ballistic missile defense,” said Crank.

The five military installations — Ft. Carson, the United States Air Force Academy, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Air Station (NORAD) — are comprised of 41,901 military and civilian personnel as of September 2000, said Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce’ director of military programs David Lucas. Nearly 19,000 are at Ft. Carson, with more than 9,000 at Peterson Air Force Base and Cheyenne Mountain Air Station (NORAD), and nearly 10,000 at the USAFA. Schriever includes more than 4,000 military and employee personnel.

If military forces were called out by Pres. George W. Bush, Lucas believes that Ft. Carson’s 43rd Area Support Group would most likely be deployed because this unit exercises logistics. The 10th Combat Area Support Hospital will probably be deployed from Ft. Carson as well, said retired Lt. Col. Lucas, who was also an executive officer of the U.S. Army Garrison.

Ft. Carson’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and 3rd Brigade would probably not be deployed as a first response since they include heavy assets that would need to be transported. The 10th Special Forces Group would probably not be deployed in a first sweep because its area of expertise deals with European countries. Although there is a possibility that these units could be deployed if a war were declared, the probability is low since Ft. Carson is further down the list of deployment facilities.

Units of 18th Airborne Corp. and 101st Airborne divisions out of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky would probably be a part of the first response of conventional forces called out, he said. The 82nd Airborne division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina and the 10th Mountain division at Fort Drum in New York would also be among the possible units summoned to duty since it has its own support logistics.

“Any operation would be a joint operation … using all services and possibilities from our allies,” said Lucas.

Crank isn’t sure what role our local military installations would play if called to duty, but is certain they would. He is surprised at “the barbarism of it” and that “anyone could have that disregard for life. The fact that it happened — while it obviously took me by surprise — I felt that was going to happen for a long time.”

One concern he has now is the inability to defend against ballistic missiles. The reason we do not have this defense is twofold: lack of Federal funding and the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed in conjunction with the Soviet Union. The United States continues to abide by a treaty with a country that no longer exists as we know it, he added. NORAD can monitor it, record its specifications, pinpoint where it would land and contact the government to implement evacuation procedures, but the United States has no means with which to intercept it.

“We can watch it come in and hit and kill millions of people and (we) can’t do anything about it,” said Crank. “No country has that ability but is technically feasible to do.

“We need an absolute strong military and intelligence community,” said Crank. “I don’t know if you can prevent this and not let your guard down on this. We do have this sense that everything in the end is going to be OK and we’re not an overly military society … but, at the same time, we need to wake up.”