by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 21st Space Wing recently completed its Condor Crest exercise Oct. 26 to 29, designed to test how the wing would respond to major incidents caused by weather and man.
There were more than 150 events – around base and throughout the 21st Space Wing – that tested emergency response plans and procedures. The most visible tests included a protest at the North Gate, a shooting incident at the base exchange and a medical emergency involving poisoned food that shut down food services and left dozens of ‘victims’ violently ill.
“The main theme was terrorists’ use of a biological agent that resulted in massive sickness throughout the wing,” said Ms. LJ Van Belkum, 21st Space Wing deputy inspector general.
Key events tested the wing on building evacuation, response to threats, shelter in place and response to injuries, accidents and fires. The 21st Space Wing conducts Condor Crest at least four times a year.
“A wing exercise is a fantastic opportunity to prepare for emergency events,” Ms. Van Belkum said. “There will always be areas for improvement and chances to smooth out communication between agencies. Overall, our wing did a great job.”
One scenario called for a massive mid-day protest at the North Gate. With anti-war and anti-U.S. government signs and shouts of anger, about 20 players protested outside the gate. However, as things do in the real world, the protest escalated and two men and one woman crossed onto the base. The 21st Security Forces Squadron stopped the three protesters and held them at the visitor’s center for local law enforcement to make an arrest on the charge of trespassing.
“All the training that we do really came to fruition,” said Lt. Col. Renee Campbell, 21st SFS commander.
She called the exercise timely and said it showed that security forces Airmen are ready for any situation.
Medical personnel were tested on their ability to handle a base-wide crisis. Under the scenario, dozens of base personnel flooded the medical facilities with a violent stomach illness. The food system on base was contaminated by a terrorist.
“All of these contingency exercises help us improve our medical readiness capability and posture as we support the wing,” said Col. John Sell, 21st Medical Group commander. “An accurate and swift reading as our public health and bioenvironmental professional conducted on the biological agent ensured patients could be treated quickly and actions could be taken to prevent further harm to our population.”
Behind the scenes, more than 250 Airmen and group level exercise controllers and squadron level exercise evaluators worked to set up the exercise, which included writing objectives and a realistic script. The wing’s goal is to evaluate every functional area throughout the year.
Mr. Bill Edwards, 21st Space Wing installation exercise director, met with experts from each group and squadron to set the objectives and coordinate information about what outside agencies would do. More than 150 evaluators on Peterson watched the events play out and looked for problem areas. They also looked for personnel going above and beyond their job requirements.
“Development of realistic scenarios is based on current local and worldwide threats and takes our team three months to create and execute,” Mr. Edwards said. “Each exercise is geared toward improving wing processes and ensuring we can perform our mission.”
No doubt, it is tough to pull off the exercise during normal work activities. However, that is part of the test, Ms. Van Belkum said.
“Can we get all of our people out of a building when the building is threatened? Can we keep accountability for our people? Do we notice when someone doesn’t come back from lunch?” are questions posed and tested during the exercise. That means exercises are just as important for civilians. People who frequent the gym, commissary, clinic and other base services, should find out where they should go in case of a real event.
“People do what they practice, and the wing’s plan is to protest our workers and customers in emergencies,” she said.