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May 16, 2013 9:33 PM by Andy Koen

Soldier population expected to reach new peak this summer

COLORADO SPRINGS - The number of active duty soldiers stationed at Fort Carson has steadily risen over the past six years. However, constant deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have often hidden how big of a change has taken place.

In the coming months, the full scale of those troop realignments will be evident as the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments projects a new peak of more than 25,000 soldiers and their families will all be in Colorado Springs at the same time.

"Thirty thousand people is a small town or a small city, however you look at it," explained PPACG Executive Director Robert MacDonald. "They needed everything."

The PPACG worked closely with commanders on post during that period to help make the transition as smooth as possible. Early on, the group developed a dynamic new demographic modeling system to help community leaders prepare for the expansion.

Using a combination of census and military data, as well as surveys with 4th ID soldiers still stationed at Fort Hood, the modeling system painted a clearer picture of who was coming to Colorado Springs and what their needs were.

"I didn't know that Sgt. Smith was coming but I knew that 27 sergeants that had 15 spouses and 37 children were coming," explained Kate Hatten, manager of the PPACG Military Impact System.

The information was invaluable in making big infrastructure decisions like where to build schools and how much to expand roads. It also helped the apartment association guide developers in selecting the best areas to build.

"The planning we did really was leading to what happens at the end of the cycle when everybody is here," MacDonald said.

The heightened sense cooperation that emerged between civilian and military leaders during the transition has evolved into new web tool aimed at helping new soldiers and their families make the transition to town. The Peak Military Care Network connects military families with everything from child care to health care. They also assist veterans in applying for college and searching for jobs.

On May 30, News 5's Jennifer Horbelt will moderate a Fort Carson Community Partnership Town Hall Meeting. Maj. Gen. Paul LaCamera, the Commanding General of Fort Carson and the 4th Infantry Division and El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey will join a guest panel to answer questions about the transition the challenges lay ahead.

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