By Scott Prater | Mountaineer staff
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Army and education leaders symbolically sliced through a shiny red ribbon outside building 1117 March 2, 2021, ending a long and arduous wait for completion of a project that has been more than seven years in the making.
Maj. Gen. Matthew W. McFarlane, commanding general, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson, joined Col. Nate Springer, commander, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Carson and Rebecca Schlecht, education services officer, in officially opening the newly renovated Fort Carson Education Center (FCEC) during a ceremony attended by Soldiers, students, Families and local community partners.
“This is an old Army building,” Springer said while describing the long road to project completion. “It was originally built in the 1950s, but when we sent our engineers in to inspect it, they found that its bones were really solid.”
While explaining the financing and construction hurdles faced by today’s military installations, Springer said most of the funds spent by garrisons nowadays go toward sustaining existing infrastructure. And that only a small percentage of funds remain for modernization efforts.
“With an $8 million (price tag) a long list of senior leaders had to agree that this was an important project. They knew we needed to renovate our education center in order to support our Soldiers, our Families and our kids for years to come,” he said.
Initially constructed as an Army barracks building during the 1950s, the Fort Carson Education Center administrative and classroom spaces underwent an extensive overhaul during the two-year renovation. Education leaders estimate the new state-of-the-art facility will now host over 100,000 customers annually, with the capacity to grow based on Soldier needs and program expansions.
Enhancements include energy-efficient LED lights and a modern heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, which improves comfort and productivity for staff and students. Interior improvements include modernized reception areas, testing centers and classrooms, which were upgraded to add the latest telecommunication systems, audio-visual equipment and video screens in all classrooms.
For the past two years, FCEC staff temporarily relocated to other nearby buildings, but were able to return to building 1117 in November 2020.
Besides hosting several testing centers, the new FCEC boasts a learning resource center computer lab that’s capable of supporting 100 personnel at one time. The center also offers education counseling, which includes tuition and credentialing assistance, GI Bill and in-state certifications, higher education counseling for transitioning service members and assistance with federal financial aid for Family members.
Five colleges and universities also offer a variety of courses and degree programs on post at the new FCEC, including Colorado State University-Pueblo, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Pikes Peak Community College, the University of Maryland Global Campus and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
“What we achieve in life hinges upon two things — the capabilities nature has provided us and the capabilities we build through our education,” McFarlane said during his closing remarks. “This building will definitely allow our Soldiers, Army civilians and Families to build capabilities through some awesome educational opportunities.”