Fort Carson Welcomes Space Troop Amid Uncertain Future

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 9, 2019. Wilson spoke on the importance of space cooperation and innovation. (Dalton Williams/U.S. Air Force)
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks to the 35th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 9, 2019. Wilson spoke on the importance of space cooperation and innovation. (Dalton Williams/U.S. Air Force)

The Army has battled for more than 15 years to get its 1st Space Brigade a home on Fort Carson.

The unit moved into the post Thursday amid ceremony that coincided with the closing of the Space Symposium. But its soldiers, who help other units access space services and manage a constellation of communications satellites, might want to keep their bags packed. The move comes as Congress mulls creating the Space Force, which would swallow the brigade into a new service.

The Space Force was the elephant in the room at the symposium, which drew space experts from around the world to The Broadmoor. While the acting secretary of defense said the service planned to encompass the military's space efforts, officers, including Army space boss Lt. Gen. James Dickinson, avoided the topic.

Dickinson, one of the keynote speakers Thursday at the event, instead focused on the Army's mission with not a word about its uncertain future.

"It's important to talk about how important space is to the United States Army," he told a crowd that packed The Broadmoor's International Center.

While the future of the Space Force remains in the hands of Congress, it would likely consume the Army's space efforts, which date back to the 1940s. The Space Brigade, the only unit of its kind on the planet, ensures that ground troops get the satellite services that have grown increasingly important in battle since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

When a 4,000-soldier Army combat brigade heads to war now, it is packing 2,750 pieces of equipment that rely on satellite signals, from navigation and communications gear to intelligence and missile warning.

"When most people think of the Army, they don't think of space," Dickinson said.

The Space Force would include as many as 20,000 troops, most coming from the units of Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, but also wrapping in Army and Navy satellite experts.

The Air Force space contingent is the best known and dominates Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases. The Army's Space Brigade, meanwhile, was hidden in rented quarters near Fountain and Powers boulevards since its founding in 2003.

The brigade's new digs are on one of Fort Carson's main streets. That puts the space soldiers amid their comrades in infantry and armor units.

"There's no question that the 1st Space Brigade is part of the Fort Carson team," the unit's commander Col. Eric Little said at a ceremony to cut the ribbon on the new headquarters.

The Pentagon has plans to start the Space Force as soon as next year. Planners at Peterson Air Force Base, including some Army officers, are at work designing the service even as Congress debates its merits.

At a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Republicans seemed warm to the idea, which has been pushed personally by President Donald Trump. The Trump administration contends that growing threats to American satellites from rivals, including Russia and China, drives the need for a service branch focused solely on space.

Senate Democrats, though, voiced concerns Thursday that the new service would increase bureaucracy and costs without making the country measurably safer.

Despite the cloudy future, the Army is celebrating bringing its space troops home to Fort Carson.

"It's a great and fitting end to the Space Symposium to cut this ribbon and go back to our mission," Dickinson said as he welcomed the brigade to its new home.

This article is written by Tom Roeder from The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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