Fort Carson is a United States Army installation located near Colorado Springs, primarily in El Paso County, Colorado. It is north of Pueblo, Colorado in Pueblo County. The installation extends south into Pueblo and Fremont counties. The portion of the installation located within El Paso County forms a census-designated place (CDP), which had a population of 13,813 at the 2010 census. Fort Carson is the home of the 4th Infantry Division, the 10th Special Forces Group, the 71st Ordnance Group (EOD), the 4th Engineer Battalion, the 759th Military Police Battalion, the 10th Combat Support Hospital, the 43rd Sustainment Brigade, and the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron of the United States Air Force. The post also hosts units of the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and the Colorado Army National Guard.
Fort Carson was established in 1942, following Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The city of Colorado Springs, Colorado purchased land south of the city and donated it to the War Department. Construction began immediately and the first building, the camp headquarters, was completed January 31, 1942. Camp Carson was named in honor of the legendary Army scout, General Christopher "Kit" Carson, who explored much of the West in the 1800s.
Nurses, cooks, mule packers, tank battalions, a Greek infantry battalion, and an Italian ordnance company trained at Camp Carson during the war years. Camp Carson was also home to nearly 9,000 Axis prisoners of war – mostly Italians and Germans. The internment camp at Camp Carson opened on the first day of 1943. These POWs alleviated the manpower shortage in Colorado by doing general farm work, canning tomatoes, cutting corn, and aiding in logging operations on Colorado's Western Slope.
Between 1942 and 1956, pack mules were a common sight at Camp Carson. The first shipment arrived by train from Nebraska in July 1942. The mules were used by Field Artillery (Pack) battalions to carry equipment, weapons and supplies over mountainous terrain. The most famous of these animals was Hambone, the pride of the 4th Field Artillery Regiment. For 13 years, he carried First Sergeants up Ute Pass to Camp Hale. Camp Hale, located near Leadville, Colorado, was where the Army conducted cold weather and mountain warfare training. Hambone died in March 1971, and was buried with full military honors.
Activity at Camp Carson was greatly reduced following the end of World War II. By April 1946, the military strength at the Mountain Post had dropped to around 600. It appeared that Camp Carson would be closed. With the onset of the Korean War, however, activity once again increased. Many Reserve and National Guard units were called to active duty and stationed at Camp Carson during this time.
Camp Carson became "Fort Carson" in 1954. In the 1960s, mechanized units were assigned to the Mountain Post. At that time additional training land was purchased, bringing the post to its current size of 137,000 acres (570 km²). Fort Carson also has its own aviation facility, Butts Army Air Field, which was constructed between 1963 and 1966. The facility primarily supports helicopters and has extensive landing pad facilities, as well as a runway for light fixed-wing aircraft such as the C-12. Heavier fixed-wing military aircraft supporting Fort Carson, such as USAF C-130s, will typically operate from nearby Peterson AFB.
Throughout its history Fort Carson has been home to nine divisions. An additional training area, comprising 235,000 acres (959 km²), was purchased in September 1983. Named the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, this training area is located approximately road miles to the southeast, and is used for large force-on-force maneuver training. Comprehensive maneuver and live fire training also occurs downrange at Fort Carson.
Fort Carson's beautiful scenery has made it one of the most requested duty stations in the U.S. Army. It is considered the second most popular CONUS duty station, after Fort Lewis, Washington, and adopted "Best Hometown in the Army" as its motto in 2007.
Fort Carson has undergone a construction boom in 2007 and 2008 in preparation for the return of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) from Fort Hood, Texas. The 4ID will set up headquarters at Fort Carson after returning from their 2008 deployment to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Arrival of the 4ID (headquarters and a heavy brigade) will bring with it approximately 5,000 additional soldiers to Fort Carson.