Internet stories went viral in April when it was discovered that Russian soldiers were coming to the United States for training at Fort Carson in Colorado as part of an exchange program in effect since the 1990’s
The stories claimed it was the first time such an exercise had ever taken place and that the Russians would be allowed to take over the airport; the college would be involved; and that we could expect the Russians to be rappelling down the CIA headquarters in elaborate war games.
The story seems to have started with the EU Times, which defines yellow journalism.
Did all that happen? The answer is a resounding “NO!” And I’m grateful for that.
I spoke with Lt. Col. Osterholzer, the squad commander in charge of the operation in question in April and you can read the details here. The Lt. Col. told me at the time that the troops were coming from Russia as part of a program in effect since the Clinton era.
One of the program goals is familiarizing each country’s army with the other’s to avoid having the battlefield become their first meeting ground. Russian and U.S. troops do meet as allies on the field of battle. The other, and perhaps more important goal, is its intent is to build positive relationships.
Lt. Col. Osterholzer told me at the time that the training was to take place on the grounds of the Fort with one day of training in the mountains outside the Fort. He said the training was very basic, the weaponry shared is unclassified, and that the Russian soldiers would be accompanied 24/7.
I just got off the phone with Lt. Col. Osterholzer for the follow up.
Twenty-two Russian soldiers ended up going to Fort Carson, Colorado for the basic training, which went as the Lt. Col. described. They stayed for the last two weeks of May and left on June 1st.
The Russians never went near CIA headquarters or the airport. Besides the training, they went to a minor league baseball game with the U.S. soldiers and they all partied the last night. The Lt. Col. said that the soldiers of both armies formed excellent relationships. The Russians expressed their gratitude and had a great time.
Some people who got a little too caught up in the conspiracy end of it thought that U.S. citizens were going to be kidnapped and taken back to Russia for questioning. That didn’t happen yet but they know where you all live (Kidding – I’m just kidding).
There is no need for kdinappings anyway since President Obama will likely tell the Russians all they need to know.
Since this is an exchange program, by this time next year, the U.S. soldiers will be hosted in Russia. This was not the first time an exercise like this has taken place. The first one was in 1995 at Fort Riley, Kansas.