Thursday, May 8, 2014

Close PCMS, says Not 1 More Acre!

Posted By on Thu, May 8, 2014 at 9:48 AM

click to enlarge Marines from the Marine Wing Support Squadron 473 duck for cover from flying stones as an AH-64 Apache helicopter, like those that will train at the PCMS,  lands near Forward Operating Base Orgun-E in Afghanistan on Oct. 12, 2004. - STAFF SGT. RUSTY BAKER, U.S. MARINE CORPS
  • Staff Sgt. Rusty Baker, U.S. Marine Corps
  • Marines from the Marine Wing Support Squadron 473 duck for cover from flying stones as an AH-64 Apache helicopter, like those that will train at the PCMS, lands near Forward Operating Base Orgun-E in Afghanistan on Oct. 12, 2004.

The Army's desire to use heavier arms fire training and drones at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site is drawing opposition, judging from comments made during a public meeting in Trinidad on Tuesday.

Not 1 More Acre! spokeswoman Jean Aguirre urged the Army to simply close PCMS, saying the 235,000-acre short-grass prairie can't survive heavier use, according to the Pueblo Chieftain's story about the meeting.

“You can’t train soldiers in a Dust Bowl,” Aguerre said, drawing applause, the Chieftain reported.

The Army isn't seeking to expand PCMS, as it has in the past. This time, it wants to intensify use of the property in southeast Colorado. As the Chieftain describes, the Army is studying the impact of drone aircraft, helicopter gunnery, drop zones for paratroopers, electronic jamming and demolition training.

Not 1 More Acre! issued a statement of its position prior to the meeting:
The Department of Defense has spent more than a decade implementing plans to expand the PCMS through additional training, intensified use, expanded operations and land acquisition. Every internal military planning document obtained by Not 1 More Acre! has insisted that the PCMS in its current size can neither meet mission requirements nor sustain the environment to meet multi-force training requirements.

By contrast, the Army's recent public statements have all reversed those positions and indicate that use of the existing Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site is able to satisfy all mission and environmental requirements without causing any significant impacts.

These later conclusions were presented without supporting data, are completely at odds with the Army's previous positions, and are false.

The Department of Defense and Department of the Army cannot meet its maneuver training requirements at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site without causing irreversible degradation and total destruction to PCMS and the region (Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas), which is located on fragile shortgrass prairie at the headwinds of the 1930's Dust Bowl.

In fact, Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site is not capable of sustaining any military training. Instead, military impacts on shortgrass perpetuate another national environmental disaster that has the potential to wipe out the Southern Great Plains only eighty years after government policy led to the Dust Bowl.

DOD's environmental analysis of impacts to Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site by the new Heavy Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) is typical. DOD found there would be no significant impact from operating and maneuvering the $3.9 billion integrated electronic weapons system on the last native shortgrass prairie in all the American Great Plains kept by generational ranchers.

The Heavy CAB includes two attack reconnaissance battalions, an assault helicopter battalion, a general support aviation battalion, and an aviation support battalion.

The attack reconnaissance battalions consist of 48 AH-64 Apache helicopters. The AH-64 is armed with a 30-millimeter chain gun, and it can carry up to 16 laser-guided Hellfire missiles and 76 rockets (in pods of 19 rockets each).

The AH-64D can employ radar-guided Longbow Hellfire missiles and Longbow fire control radar ("FCR"). A single FCR-equipped Longbow Apache is reportedly able to control Longbow Hellfire missiles carried by AH-64D aircraft that are not equipped with radar sensors.

Apache Longbow Block III helicopter pilots have controlled the payload and flight path of a Gary Eagle Unmanned Aerial System (drone) while both aircraft were airborne.

The new Heavy Combat Aviation Brigade assault battalion consists of approximately 30 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, which are the Army's second-largest helicopter at more than 20,000 pounds Maximum Take Off Gross Weight ("MTOGW").

The general support battalion consists of 12 CH-47 Chinook helicopters (the largest aircraft in the Army's aviation fleet at 50,000 lbs MTOGW) and five specialized Blackhawk helicopters.

Army says there will be no significant impacts from the 113 helicopters assigned to the Heavy CAB to operate somewhere between an average of 4,960 and 7,652 hours at PCMS. That's not all. According to Army documents, the CAB's Full Spectrum Operations Training Strategy will schedule 8,539 aviation hours at PCMS. Nearly one-half of all flying hours are expected to be flown by the AH-64 Apache attack aircraft.

The Heavy CAB is equipped with at least twelve of the Army's MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones. The Gray Eagle is an upgrade of the MQ-1 Predator Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) with a more powerful engine and larger payload. Each Gray Eagle weighs about 3,600 pounds and can carry up to four Hellfire missiles.

Add 600 - 700 electronically integrated manned and unmanned ground vehicles to the Combat Aviation Brigade DOD determined has no significant impact on the environment and rural economies at the headwinds of the Dust Bowl.

Fort Carson is only one of many DOD users of Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site and the CAB is only one of many complex weapons systems DOD is operating there. The new EIS will pile on more.

The environmental analysis and public disclosure strategy designed by DOD, its contractors and politicians is crafted to trick the public into believing that impacts will be insignificant and wear opponents down with relentless and endless public comment opportunities that consume unreasonable amounts of time and money.

But if we don't speak out, the only guarantee is that for a second time in a hundred years we the people will allow our government to bury the Southern Great Plains in dust.

DOD and its contractors must be stopped at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, Colorado. It will take each one of us to grow the campaign to stop the them. We can.

Represent a challenge to everything that is wrong with politics and governance in this country today. Tell the Pentagon to stop.

People across southeastern Colorado will speak out at the meetings. Join us.

Tell DOD what you think by clicking the link:
usarmy.carson.imcom-central.list.dpw-ed-nepal@mail.mil.
Bill Sulzman of Colorado Springs also questioned the plan in comments drawn from this prepared statement he provided to us:
I believe real consideration should be given to a liquidation process for the PCMS. There really needs to be a going out of business sale. Correct the original mistake once and for all. That would take a lot of planning with many having a say in how it is carried out.
Here are some of the reasons why:

It is obvious after 30 years of operation that this terrain is not suitable for the kind of training being conducted here.

The Army as a whole is shrinking in size, up to a 130,000 decline in numbers. Fort Carson itself will lose a complete Brigade Combat Team as part of the drawdown. Why then is there a proposal for new facilities and new training requirements at PCMS?

Army Aviation as a whole is being scaled back also, roughly in proportion to the Army wide cutbacks. Why are the demands for more airspace being pushed as the program overall is getting smaller? In addition to the new demands in the PCMS area, Fort Carson plans to greatly expand its use of airspace in the Canon City area.

The Air Force also wanted a bigger training space in the area for its plans despite overall cutbacks. Thankfully that seems to have been stopped. It is time to protect our common resource of airspace from this huge military demand for even heavier use.

It will be an uphill battle. The political forces, both democrat and republican can't get enough federal military handouts. The giant military contractor firms have enormous influence on military expansion policies.

We have to be able to counter the business as usual atmosphere that drives these policies. Closing PCMS would be a good start.
The point of the meeting in Trinidad, as well as another in La Junta, was to define the scope of the environmental study that will determine what, if any, the changes in training will have on the training grounds. Sulzman says Carson officials said a draft report will be completed within three months after which more public meetings will be held. A record of decision is expected within about six months.

Meantime, Fort Carson issued a news release last week about the new Combat Aviation Brigade, which has triggered the need to change the use of the PCMS.
FORT CARSON, Colo. – The 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, is scheduled to activate its remaining four battalions during a ceremony Thursday [May 1] at 1 p.m. on Founder’s Field.

4th CAB will become a fully activated brigade after the activation of 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment; 3rd Attack Helicopter Battalion, 4th Avn. Reg.; 4th ARB, 4th Avn. Reg.; and 404th Aviation Support Battalion.

The CAB headquarters activated July 2, 2013, and 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th CAB, activated April 3, 2013.

Currently, the CAB has more than 1,880 Soldiers and is projected to have more than 2,500 Soldiers by the end of 2014. It also has approximately 87 aircraft (CH-47 Chinooks, AH-64 Apaches and UH-60 Black Hawks) and is expected to have more than 130 by October.

The CAB played a pivotal role in the 2013 Black Forest fires and Boulder floods. They flew more than 913 missions, dropped more than 700,000 gallons of water during the Black Forest fires, and contributed to the largest airlift evacuation since Hurricane Katrina during the Boulder floods. They also volunteered more than 560 hours outside of military operations to help with the recovery of the communities during both of the unfortunate disasters.

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