The Piñon Canyon Mess

The Army’s planned land grab in southeast Colorado has dragged on for four years. In spite of a funding ban, the US Army continues their aggressive maneuvering to take land from centennial ranchers, threatening Western heritage and the ecology of sensitive shortgrass prairie. For those not familiar with the story, this link has some great background information.

Jean Aguerre of Not One More Acre, a rancher’s opposition group, sent this update about the plan to use Eminent Domain to take over an enormous swath of shortgrass prairie for war training:

Three simultaneous phases of military expansion are threatening our land, air lives and tax dollars.

Now, more than ever, citizens need to know and need to act.

In southern Colorado and northern New Mexico the Pentagon is aggressively advancing to 1) acquire a 418,000-acre “Phase I” expansion of the Army’s existing Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado, with an ultimate expansion goal of up to 7 million acres; 2) house and train a Combat Aviation Brigade – at least 2800 soldiers, 120 Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, 300 ground vehicles — at Piñon Canyon; 3) and push a massive increase in Air Force Special Operations out of Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico engulfing all of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado for low flying combat aircraft.

These three pieces are key components in the Pentagon’s plan for a huge Joint Forces lethal high-tech battlefield over the entire region.

Now Doss Aviation, which has been screening potential pilots for the Air Force since setting up shop next to the Pueblo, Colorado airport in 2006, is expanding to offer a training program to fly and test drones.

Through every level of democracy, citizens have spoken out against military expansion in the region. Despite a Congressional funding ban prohibiting expansion and a federal court order limiting training at Piñon Canyon the Pentagon is proceeding to implement take-over of the people, land and air of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

No matter where you live, stand up for sane national policy.

Insist that Congress STOP this military destruction of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

Call these Congressional members. Tell them that we will NOT live under or pay for drones and military expansion.

Senator Mark Udall, Colorado 719-542-1701
Senator Michael Bennet, Colorado 719-542-7550
Congressman John Salazar, Colorado; 719-587-5105

SenatorTom Udall, New Mexico 505- 988-6511
Congressman Martin Heinrich, New Mexico; 505-346-6781
Congressman Ben Lujan, New Mexico; 505-863-0582

Firm sets sights on Air Force drones
Doss Aviation seeks to train candidates for remotely piloted aircraft.
The Pueblo Chieftain

The U.S. Air Force wants its virtual pilots to have some real experience in the air, something that could mean more jobs and revenue for a Pueblo business.

Doss Aviation, which has been screening potential pilots for the Air Force since setting up shop in 2006, has asked to expand its service to offer a training program for officers picked to fly drones.

Paul Walker, program manager for the firm’s Initial Flight Screening program here, said he hopes the modification of Doss’s contract with the Air Force will be approved soon and the expanded program can get under way in early 2011.

Doss provides screening for would-be Air Force pilots. Officers get initial training and testing at Pueblo Municipal Airport before moving on to more advanced flight schools.

Now, the Air Force wants the officers who will be flying remotely piloted aircraft – unmanned drones – to get some actual flight time in themselves.

Currently, 1,850 young officers are passing through the Doss program and the addition of the remotely piloted aircraft trainees will raise that number to 2,250.

“This will pretty much max us out on our capability here,” Walker said.

Doss operates in one of two buildings originally built for the Sperry Corp. and later shuttered when the computer company’s successor business was bought and moved out of Pueblo.

Located alongside the city’s airport, the building proved a good fit for Doss, which needed office and classroom space as well as access to the runway.

Walker said the new contract would mean increasing the work force there to 200 from the current 195, including more instructors. More airplanes also would be needed, he said.

Remotely piloted aircraft “are the future in the Air Force, it seems,” Walker said.

Originally, drones were flown by rated pilots, but demand for that skill is growing and the Air Force is recruiting officers from other fields for the drone programs.

Walker said that the remote piloted aircraft trainees would be put through the same course the pilots get at Doss. “They’ll fly more here than the pilot candidates will.”

2 thoughts on “The Piñon Canyon Mess

  1. The flight training issue has been getting a lot of press, and a lot of pushback down here in New Mexico. On a purely selfish level, what really bugs me is that the military already has so many areas closed to public access. If they’re going to keep locking me out of, say, the San Andres range, the least they could do is actually use the place instead of establishing a new presence elsewhere.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Jackson, It seems pretty common-sensical to use the millions of acres that we already drop bombs and run tanks on, doesn’t it?

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