FORT CARSON — When one thinks of military leaders, an image of Gen. George S. Patton might come to mind. It does for me: A tough, no-nonsense, gruff leader.
When I went to Fort Carson U.S. Army post this afternoon, I expected two things: 1. That their head honcho would be like Patton, and 2. That I would get nowhere near meeting him.
I was wrong on both accounts.
Colorado Springs is home to the Air Force Academy, a soaring, majestic facility on the north end of this city that houses that military branch’s elite future officer corps. But about 20 miles down Interstate-25 lies Fort Carson, a U.S. Army facility far more workmanlike in appearance.
The post houses 26,000 soldiers and 70,000 family members. It sits on 137,000 acres, with countless buildings. Post dwellers have access to everything from the usual suspects — a commissary and training facilities — to civilian conveniences like a Burger King and a freshly minted Starbucks.
Once inside the grounds, my fellow UW Election Eye crew and I met with Garrison Public Affairs Officer Dee McNutt. She was in the Army for 22 years, and spoke proudly about the positive relationship between Carson and the surrounding community. McNutt attributed part of this warm connection to Major General Joe Anderson.
Anderson took command of Carson in November 2011, and McNutt said he wanted to cultivate an openness between the post and the community by encouraging the public to come on the post freely. (Well, that is, after being checked out by security.)
OK then, we wondered: could we walk around by ourselves and talk to soldiers? McNutt said yes, but that most would probably not talk with us.
A short time later we talked to the head honcho.
Roughly 30 attendees were gathered to see Mr. Don Addy of the Homeland Defense Foundation and Brett Axton of the Pikes Peak Range Rider Foundation donate approximately $10,000 to the Army Community Service Center for food vouchers for soldiers and their families.
In the corner of the room stood Anderson. Before the ceremony Anderson was smiling and joking around with his crew while talking about the Super Bowl. He looked over at myself and my colleague, A.V. Crofts, and inquired as to who we were. Once he found out about the UW Election Eye blog he half-joking said, “Oh, I love bloggers.”
Once the check was presented, Anderson took a moment to say a few words to the crowd of employees. He thanked the donors, and proclaimed, “There is no better community than this Colorado Springs community.” He went on to say that Fort Carson owes it to this supportive community to be accountable and transparent about where donations go. That is why, he said, he wanted to create a 501(c)(3) to handle the donations.
After he spoke, he granted UW Election Eye a few minutes and a few questions. He stood close and spoke with conviction, warmth, and pride for his post. When we asked how he got the idea for the 501(c)(3), he said his previous post at Fort Knox, KY had created something similar. When I asked when he started working on this idea, he said “My very first week…It is a priority to me to give to places like the Army Community Service Center who serve our soldiers and families.”
Major General Anderson was not at all what I expected. Perhaps he is like Patton on the field, but in person, he was a strong leader driven to serve his post.