Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group


One final sprint

by Monica Mendoza

21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo — In the 21st Space Wing’s last chance to practice crisis management skills before undergoing a big inspection, Team Pete pulled out all the stops.

The wing exercised 159 scenarios that had the wing’s emergency response teams working with Colorado Springs and El Paso County emergency responders, Flight for Life, and American Medical Response crews to fully play out the scenarios.

There was an earthquake, a fire, a disgruntled Airman who crashed a heavy equipment loader into vehicles, a fast-moving gunman at the base dormitories and bomb threats that required the 21st Security Forces Squadron’s highly trained bomb detection dogs to get to work.

The exercise scenarios called for stepped up security measures across the base, kept emergency crews on long days and nights and tested command and control functions up and down the chain. Even the wing commander was moved from his primary location and alternate location to test his ability to operate from a bare-bones location.

“This is the last dry run to refresh those things in our minds one last time,” said Capt. Ross Dotzlaf, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron asset management flight commander and a lead exercise evaluator who helped plan the events for the Jan. 10 to 14 Condor Crest quarterly exercise. “Everyone knows what they need to do and everybody will be able to execute when the time comes.”

Col. Stephen N. Whiting, 21st Space Wing commander, was notified in January, that Air Force Space Command’s Inspector General will conduct an Operational Readiness Inspection and a Unit Compliance Inspection on the wing from Feb. 27 to Mar. 21.

In an ORI and UCI, inspectors leave no stone unturned, grading initial responses, employment, mission support and ability to survive and operate in crisis conditions. They scrutinize every aspect of the wing’s operations including its geographically separated units.

The last wing ORI was in April 2009 and the wing earned a “satisfactory” grade. For the UCI, the wing was tested in 35 areas in three broad categories of special interest items, common core compliance areas and mission areas. The wing earned an “in compliance with comments” designation.

In an e-mail to the wing, Colonel Whiting thanked Airmen for their efforts to prepare for the inspections.

“As we enter these remaining weeks, remember the principles of teamwork and professionalism that led our wing to be so successful in the 2009 inspection,” he said.

A key area that will be tested in the ORI is the ability to rapidly deploy. During Condor Crest, about 100 Airmen were called up for rapid deployment to Afghanistan. Inside the Peterson auditorium, Airmen were briefed as though they had just landed in country. They received maps, information about the weather, terrain, demographics, culture and language. They heard about killer insects and tuberculosis – health risks of the area – and they were tested on MOPP transition, attack preparation, self aid buddy care and weapons familiarization, among other skills.

“This is one final opportunity for the wing commander to get a little more comfortable, knowing that everyone will be able to perform when the time hits,” Captain Dotzlaf said.

Condor Crest, a quarterly exercise held by the wing, is designed to meet expectations and objectives as outlined in Air Force Instruction. The exercises test the wing’s ability to perform deployment operations, emergency response actions, and compliance with Department of Defense, Air Force Space Command and 21st Space Wing instructions. Each Condor Crest takes months to prepare and hundreds of subject-matter experts.

In this Condor Crest, all of the GSUs exercised, said Bill Edwards, 21 SW exercise evaluation team chief. For example, base emergency crews responded to Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, where an earthquake scenario played out.

This Condor Crest capped off all the training the wing has done throughout 2010, Mr. Edwards said.

“We just need to look (Colonel Whiting) in the eye and say, whatever scenario is thrown at the wing, you can handle it,” Mr. Edwards said. “We feel we are prepared.”

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