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Training Soldiers, and Making an Impact


Jeff Hopfenbeck

We get a lot of interesting opportunities as fellows at El Pomar Foundation. Whether it’s regional travel, professional development, or community impact visits, it seems every day holds a new experience. But one recent excursion tops the list in terms of engaging in a once-in-a-lifetime event. For several hours earlier this month, fellows and staff were transported a short distance to another world, as we visited Fort Carson for a tour arranged by El Pomar’s Terrance McWilliams, the Foundation’s director of military and veteran affairs.

Our morning was packed with activities designed to show us the life and training of a modern soldier, as well as the base’s efforts to make a positive impact in the community. We started the day with a briefing. There we learned about the truly massive scope of operations at Fort Carson and the economic impact the base has on the Colorado Springs community and beyond.

We then moved on to a tour of Fort Carson’s training facilities. We saw how the military trains soldiers for all of the unique – and potentially deadly – situations they might encounter while deployed abroad. From trainings on improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to a simulator designed to mimic a vehicle rollover, the facilities were undeniably impressive in their precision and scale. During our visit we even had a chance to try out a couple of the simulators ourselves, including one high-tech trainer designed to simulate a route-clearance convoy in a hostile environment. Not surprisingly, my limited experience playing Call of Duty did not correlate into success on the (real) virtual battlefield.

However, while the facilities were undeniably impressive, what struck me most were the people we met. Everyone, from the Garrison Commander who arranged our tour to the soldiers we met in the training facilities, showed an incredible dedication to their jobs. Moreover, they showed a commitment to the wider Colorado Springs community that, perhaps foolishly, I did not think initially expect.

One of the added joys of the experience was seeing El Pomar’s own Terrance McWilliams back on base. Before coming to the Foundation, McWilliams served as Fort Carson’s Command Sergeant Major. Traveling around the base with him was a treat as everywhere we went people knew the “Sergeant Major” and greeted him with tremendous respect and admiration.


Interested in learning more about El Pomar’s involvement with Colorado Springs’ military community? Be sure to watch the blog for more articles on the Foundation’s efforts to assist service members and their families.