Feature by Tech. Sgt. Ray Bowden
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
At 8:30 a.m. Dec. 9, following a savage explosion which claimed the life of the wing commander and tore the wing headquarters building in half, nearly two dozen Airmen and civilians rushed to a nondescript facility north of the flight-line to activate Peterson’s Emergency Operations Center.
Granted, the terrible blast was part of a simulated Operational Readiness Inspection scenario, as was Col. Jay Raymond’s demise, but the EOC was still activated and for the Airmen and civilians inside, hunched over their computers, conversing with the EOC director or barking orders into a phones, the scenario was completely real.
Previously known as the disaster control group, the EOC serves as the master coordination and control point for base-wide emergency efforts and is staffed by team of experts who coordinate support for emergency responders.
EOC representatives Chaplain (Capt.) Heather Bodwell, 21st Space Wing Protestant chaplain, believes the EOC is essential whether navigating through an ORI or an actual disaster.
“The EOC allows us to provide an efficient response regardless of the situation,” she said, “We can talk to each other, to the different agency representatives, and lean forward as a team.”
One NCO called the EOC a ‘decision-making melting pot.”
“The EOC gives the director a different perspective,” said Master Sgt. Marvin Tisdale, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron Quality Awareness noncommissioned officer. “The director gets a different vantage and viewpoint. We give him the full picture.”
Col. Jay Raymond, 21st SW commander, relies heavily on the expertise and advice of his EOC team.
“These folks are my eyes and ears, period,” he said.” “Without their counsel, I would have minimal situational awareness. One reason why I know that we will do well in this ORI is because of the EOC team – they’re all experts in their field whom I trust implicitly.”
Sergeant Tisdale assesses the current EOC performance as one that will help Peterson traverse its ORI.
“It says a great deal about us that we can respond to a real fire in a dorm while right in the middle of an exercise scenario,” he said.
Sergeant Tisdale was referring to Peterson emergency personnel leaving the scene of the exercise explosion at the wing headquarters to respond to a real-world fire in Building 1270.
According to Senior Airman Robert Hattan, 21st CES engineer apprentice, the exercises and preparation Peterson endured in the past year have paid off.
“We’ve definitely built a solid foundation,” he said. “We’ve improved our continuity and our processes.”
According to EOC representative Tech. Sgt. Sheldon Briggs, 21st Force Support Squadron, the EOC is crucial in providing the “big picture” to the EOC director and by extension, the wing commander.
“The Unit Control Center’s can’t see everything, but we can,” he said. “We communicate with the commander on what is going on and help him or her assess the situation.”
Sergeant Briggs, who estimates that he has performed EOC duty seven times in the last year, expressed little worry about any further challenges the IG team may place upon Peterson.
“I’ve known that we’re going to do well from the start,” he said. “We’ve been together for a while. The EOC is good to go.”