Letters to the Editor

Welfare and readiness of our soldiers demands that Governor veto HB 1317

An open letter to Governor Bill Ritter:

I insist that you veto House Bill 1317 that would block the U.S. Army from expanding its already insufficient training land around Piñon Canyon.

I am a Colorado native whose family homesteaded a cattle ranch east of Kiowa in 1898 so I know something about ranching.

I graduated from West Point in June of 1950, and was immediately plunged into the Korean War for which the U.S. was not ready, including having blocked soldiers in Japan from training across the rice paddies.

The entire so-called ‘Massacre’ of civilians at No Gun Ri was caused, in part, by the lack of training readiness of the 7th Cavalry. It took us a year and 34,000 killed in action before we pushed the North Koreans out of South Korea.

I also fought as a commander in the Vietnam War. The anti-war sentiment back then forced the U.S. to go to an all-volunteer Army, where not a single Coloradan is forced to serve in and die for his country. So there is very little understanding of, or sympathy for, the training needs of our soldiers.

Because I am a highly decorated (DSC and 3 Silver Stars) successful combat commander, I was called to become a commander, chief training officer and chief of staff at Fort Carson just as the first mechanized troops in 47 years were stationed there in 1968. Until then, because only plain infantry divisions were stationed there, the training area had been adequate. But there are no more infantry divisions. It is not adequate now.

In 1970, I watched southern Colorado, and particularly Pueblo County, block the Army from expanding even to the south of the current post. The Army was forced, at great expense, to acquire the first land around Piñon Canyon and transport tanks, armored personnel carriers and mechanized artillery those 100 miles to that area.

Now the Army needs to station even more mechanized troops and helicopter forces at Fort Carson. And your National Guard has to train there. Training for the modern war — and when we fight the Chinese — requires enough training space.

I don’t give a damn about the desires for the economy in Colorado or in Colorado Springs where I live. I care about the welfare, readiness and training of our volunteer soldiers.

If you permit that bill to become law, I will do all I can to get the Army to pull the 28,000 soldiers, their 50,000 dependents and the entire mechanized 4th Division of Colorado, and let Colorado Springs, which is dependent for 40 percent of its total income on defense expenditures, just starve as it did in 1940.

I will also, after being a registered Democrat since I retired from Fort Carson in 1973, dump my registration and become a Republican who at least does give a damn about national security and the readiness of our soldiers!

David R. Hughes, (Col. Ret) U.S. Army
Colorado Springs