Fort Carson: Those aren't our black helicopters!

A recent blog item featured several photos of the black helicopters of Yoder, which have been buzzing Shellie Kirby's ranch in the southeast corner of El Paso County for the past three years. Kirby has filed several complaints with Fort Carson, the National Guard, Peterson Air Force Base and other suspected sources of the Black Hawk and Chinook choppers that have dive-bombed her property and terrified her horses, to no avail.

For various reasons -- including the fact that she's on a direct line between Fort Carson and the Pinon Canyon training area -- Kirby believes that the U.S. Army is at the root of her problems. But in response to an inquiry from Westword, Fort Carson has issued a response denying any involvement in the most recent flyovers, which took place last week.

The base "has one Black Hawk assigned to post," according to Fort Carson public affairs officer Dee McNutt, and it's been grounded for maintenance for some time. "Fort Carson has had no other Black Hawks assigned to post since December 2006."

McNutt also points out that one of the photos Kirby took of the low-flying birds shows a refueling probe; none of the base's copters were equipped with such a probe. "As we do not control all aviation assets that operate in the Pikes Peak region, it is impossible for us to track aircraft from other agencies that may fly near Ms. Kirby's neighborhood," she adds.

And that leaves Kirby at the same old impasse -- making the rounds of the military installations near her ranch, each one pointing the finger at another. She did manage to get Fort Carson to designate the ranch as a no-fly zone in 2006, but that designation applies only to the base. McNutt says the ranch is in a "VICTOR Airway path," which she likens to the interstate highway system. In other words, it's a route established by the Federal Aviation Administration and used by various aviation interests for training and other purposes.

Kirby, of course, isn't satisfied with the Army's latest denial. "I have the digital camera card with a date and time stamp if Ms. McNutt wants to challenge the validity of those pictures," Kirby says, "as well as more taken of those two flights. One can be enlarged [and show the helicopters] coming at me and the house from the west, directly from Fort Carson."

She wishes some entity would admit accountability for the flights, which have shaken up her Spanish mustang Rebel. "I am neither full of it or stupid," she says. "These flights happen here, and someone is responsible for the injuries dealt to Rebel. My property has been taken over without my permission for war training. And I'm guilty of not liking it."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast