Pinon Canyon Maneuver Training Site was (and is) a large tract of land in southern Colorado that the Army uses to train brigades in the field. A modern heavy brigade or Brigade Combat Team takes up a lot of space, and there is only so much land in the US that the Army is allowed to go charging around on with tanks and other tracked vehicles. Unlike the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, PCMTS is solely a maneuver area. There are no live fire ranges. Gunnery with live ammo has to be practiced elsewhere.
But the ecology and archeology of the area is quite fragile. As good stewards of the land it is responsible for, the Army goes out of its way to ensure as little damage is done as possible. Any fuel or oil spill calls for immediate and fairly drastic mitigation measures. Tracked vehicles can’t be moved if there is any rain or the soil is damp, to prevent rutting and soil erosion. Great care must be taken to not hit any of the pinon trees with vehicles, or otherwise damage them. Parts of the terrain are off limits because of their historical or archeological value. Fire prevention and suppression is stressed, as grassfires can quickly spread across the dry terrain by even the slightest breeze, leading to soil erosion.
Accordingly, before any brigade actually enters the maneuver area, all troops are assembled in the cantonment area for a briefing, delivered by a nature and wildlife conservation officer.
So there we were. One hundred Bradleys, 50 tanks, and another 400 pieces of rolling stock, and 5000 soldiers, every one of us armed to the teeth.
As we sat listening again to the caution that anyone damaging a pinon tree would be fined $500, my gunner noted the irony.
“Sergeant, did you notice that out of the five thousand and one people here, the only guy with live ammunition is the civilian park ranger?”