Fort Carson an ideal pad for aviation brigade

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A decision on where to locate one of the Army’s helicopter brigades will be made soon, and, pardon our provincialism, but we can’t think of a better locale than Colorado Springs.

Fort Carson is, of course, where 4th Infantry Division soldiers train for combat. Training of any sort requires simulation of the real-life conditions that will exist on the day of contest. That’s why soldiers at Fort Carson train with guns, artillery, tanks and explosives. But there’s one scenario the 4th ID is missing: helicopter training.

That could change if Fort Carson wins its bid to house a 2,700-soldier, 140-helicopter Combat Aviation Brigade. Also competing for the helicopter brigade is Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Wash.

We think the brigade clearly belongs at Fort Carson.

Before the 4th ID left Fort Carson in 1995 for Fort Hood, Texas, the mountain post had an aviation brigade. The Army understood such a brigade was crucial to effective combat training.

When Maj. Gen. David Perkins assumed command of the division last year, it returned to Fort Carson, but this time without a the aviation brigade.

It is the only division in the Army without an aviation brigade.

Fort Carson already has most of the infrastructure needed for the brigade. It has Butts Army Air Field, a runway and hangar facility already used by helicopters. The post also has the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site and the National Guard High Altitude Aviation Training Center, both of which provide environments needed for training.

And the Colorado Springs community is already known for its support of the military. The city offers unparalleled quality of life with strong school systems, higher education opportunities, low cost of living and numerous recreational opportunities.

The Army will consider all these factors, along with public comment gathered during the environmental impact assessment, to decide where the Combat Aviation Brigade will be located.

The public comment period closes Jan. 7.

The Army wants to have a new home for the combat aviation brigade established by 2013.

A decision in early 2011 is critical to ensure that the upcoming federal budget includes the money needed infrastructure money.

Fort Carson and Colorado Springs are a natural fit for the aviation brigade and the added soldiers it will bring.

The brigade will, of course, be a boon to our local economy, bringing opportunity for construction and aerospace contractors. About $800 million in infrastructure upgrades will be needed at Fort Carson.

But it’s also a matter of providing the right training tools to the infantry division that defends our freedom.