The Military Presence

The La Veta Military Operations Area (MOA) covers the low-level airspace over parts of Huerfano, Custer, Saguache, Alamosa, Costilla, Chaffee and Pueblo Counties. Air Force and National Guard flight operations are conducted here almost daily. For reasons not clearly stated, the government wants to expand our country’s MOAs. Why?

According to the Huerfano Valley Citizen’s Alliance, a group dedicated to stopping expansion of the MOA, The Colorado Airspace Initiative (CAI) is the tip of the iceberg in an alarming trend–the military’s insatiable appetite for new land to disrupt for practical maneuvers. The Military already controls an estimated 50% of the airspace in the U.S., and owns many millions of acres. The proposed CAI is only one of multiple initiatives for Military Operations Areas in the United States. Huerfano County has already served as an aerial playground for the military since the late 1970’s, when the La Veta MOA was approved.

According to Air National Guard figures, the current utilization of the La Veta MOA is 2,929 sorties (individual jet missions) per year. Under the New Colorado Airspace Initiative (CAI) proposal, not only will the number of sorties be increased to at least 3,120 per year, but the majority of these missions will be authorized to fly as low as 100 feet above the ground.

“These training routes are meant to be ‘aerial highways’ for low-altitude flights at high speeds. There are five major proposed air corridors – all converging at a point near Gardner – then proceeding north over Greenhorn Mountain to the Airburst Range near Ft. Carson where the pilots ‘complete their weapons delivery missions.’ This means that Huerfano County will be the most heavily impacted area under the new plan.”

F-16 Fighting Eagle

An F-16 flight directly overhead at 600 miles per hour is a bone-rattling and brain-numbing experience. The National Guard’s rationalization for the proposed change is that modern warfare techniques require pilots to be skilled in low-altitude, radar-evasive techniques. Against who?! In addition to the low-altitude training, the new proposal will allow for every variety of air and ground combat training, including ‘dog-fights,’ involving two to eight aircraft. The National Guard also anticipates releasing approximately 10,000 flares yearly as part of these maneuvers. Supposedly, the flares will ‘largely disintegrate’ before they hit the ground.

Boys With Toys
This expansion does not make sense. We are not planning to go to war with any other country. Our Air Force is considered the very best, and faces no perceived challenges anywhere on the planet. Why greatly increase the military operations flight area here in the Huerfano and in the San Luis Valley? The following was published by the Open Space Alliance (OSA), a coalition of regional citizen’s groups opposing expansion of the La Veta MOA.

“The Air National Guard’s (ANG) proposal, which started as the Red Eye Complex and evolved into the Colorado Airspace Initiative, revamps more military airspace in Colorado and Kansas than any other ANG project in the country.”

That means Southern Coloradans are among the most impacted from these proposed expansions. Backpacker Magazine stated in their April, 1994 issue,

“There will also be no restrictions on the future use of Colorado’s airspace by other branches of the military, leaving the skies permanently vulnerable.”

Not only are “other branches of the military” interested in Colorado airspace, a new development, pointed out in an advertisement published by the Custer County Action Association, now concerns many area residents.

“The people of Germany wouldn’t tolerate low-altitude military overflights. Their property values, personal safety and quiet country-sides were all being destroyed. In peacetime. So the Luftwaffe had to leave. Guess where they went? Right here. The German Air Force will be flying out of New Mexico and over our mountains, valleys and national wilderness areas as part of the ‘Colorado Airspace Initiative.’ They’ve sold our skies.” Amazing. The Front Range of Colorado reaps the rewards of an annual influx of billions of dollars, and the citizens of the SLV and the Huerfano, who gain nothing, have to tolerate the many ear-splitting over-flights. Some flights even conducted by foreign air forces!

Another article published in the Crestone Eagle, in the May 1997 edition written by OSA advocate Pat Richmond addresses the probability that un-conventional, secret aircraft are being flown here.

“[In the April 5-11 1996 edition of] the Denver Business Journal (DBJ) has revealed in a cover to cover exposé that Pentagon ‘black’ dollars are being channeled into Colorado’s Front Range communities. Labeled the ‘hottest news story of the year,’ the journal’s investigation and analysis of ‘Colorado’s Stealth Economy’ identified companies and agencies within Colorado that serve as a ‘spy-hub’ for the nation. Economic analyst Henry Dubroff wrote, ‘make no mistake about it. The most important city in Colorado is Washington D.C.’. While the DJB report may seem like hot news to some, residents on both sides of the Sangres know there have been unusual aircraft in our airspace for quite some time. Sightings of Stealth bombers or F-117s or black helicopters repeatedly have been brought to the attention of COANG’s Brig. Gen. Mason C. Whitney. He seemed to know nothing about military operations by ‘secret aircraft’ yet the DJB article makes it clear that the Colorado Air National Guard not only coordinates secret flights but also serves as landlord for the Pentagon’s spy hub.

Without a doubt, the military is conducting undisclosed flights and aerial maneuvers in and around Colorado. With the second-largest source of State income being utilized and spent by the intelligence agencies and military in Colorado, you would think they would concentrate their activities in the remotest areas of the state. That may mean here in the San Luis Valley, and possibly elsewhere in the state. Pat Richmond wrote a follow-up article in the February 1997 Crestone Eagle which pointed out the possibility that many of our nocturnal anomalous light sightings are very terrestrial in nature. Richmond also uncovered information concerning military air and ground operations conducted in the Rio Grande National Forest.

“Open Space Alliance has discovered the existence of an Inter-Agency Agreement between the Department of Defense and the Rocky Mountain Regional Office of the National Forest Service.”

The Department of Agriculture could explain “strange lights” and other puzzling “phenomena” that periodically appear in the night skies of the San Luis Valley and surrounding areas. Contrary to media coverage promoting speculation about UFOs, some residents in the SLV, including retired military personnel familiar with Pentagon activities and procedures, have long believed that most night sky “sightings” are connected to military operations such as experimental testing of prototype craft, routine training maneuvers, or special aircraft used to provide coordinates for tracking and/or retrieving missiles launched from Ft. Wingate or White Sands.

Is there an agreement between the military and the Forest Service that would allow night training activities within the Rio Grande National Forest? Ron Jablonski, Rio Grande National Forest public relations officer, decided that he could not allow Richmond to see the document because it was “just a draft”. Jablonski stated the agreement between the military and the forest service would permit small groups such as the Green Berets to engage in special forces training within the forest. He emphasized that any activities involving helicopters or other aircraft over Wilderness Areas would have to go through the National Environmental Protection Agency process and would require approval all the way to the top – the Regional Forest Supervisor. Although Jablonski denied knowing the specifics of a finalized document, he referred to training activities being limited to times outside hunting season. He also offered the comment that “trainees would not use laser weapons, but lasers might be used for locating or targeting either aircraft or ground personnel.”

I find it ironic that similar assertions in The Mysterious Valley suggesting a high percentage of the San Luis Valley’s “so-called” nocturnal UFO sightings may be due to secret military activity has not been acknowledged by the media and opponents of the MOA. It’s tough investigating in the realm of the sensational unknown, people assume you are “a UFO crazy,” running around claiming “the Martians have landed.” My hunch publicly has always been that the government is utilizing the San Luis Valley high-ground for “secret” projects. It would stand to reason that certain cutting-edge military technologies may be so fantastic in appearance, witnesses might think they were witnessing something “other worldly.” This potential for misperception could also be used by the operators of these exotic technologies to examine their secret toy’s impact on unsuspecting witnesses. Why not trot out new technology in a remote region and gauge the resulting perceptions as they filter into culture through the media? The military would want to know; what was reported? By whom? How was it perceived? How does the media and law enforcement view the claims? Do they publicize them? Do they put a spin on them? This rationale explaining some (but not all) of our “UFO sightings” may have more than passing relevance. One underlying probability needs to always be considered. Something else has apparently been flying around here for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, and no matter how hard the skeptic in me might try, the above hypothetical government/military scenario cannot explain away all our sightings.