by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The door to the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal truck opened and out rolled an F-6 Andros robot.
The four-foot-tall robot moved slowly across the parking lot and up the sidewalk to Building 2, North American Aerospace Defense Command/U.S. Northern Command’s headquarters, on Peterson Air Force Base. More than 1,000 personnel had already evacuated the building when a radiological weapon, also called a “dirty bomb,” exploded.
The explosion and EOD response was part of a joint exercise May 3, between the 21st Space Wing and NORAD/NORTHCOM. Air Force Instruction directs Air Force personnel to hold quarterly exercises to test a wing’s ability to perform deployment operations, emergency response actions and to evaluate compliance with Department of Defense, Air Force, Headquarters Air Force Space Command and wing instructions.
“The robot went inside the building to search for devices,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Rosemier, EOD team.
The goal with the robot is to keep military personnel safe from chemical or radiological agents while the robot, which has a manipulator arm that can lift as much as 100 pounds, completes a search. Within one hour, the robot recovered pieces of the exploded device.
In this joint exercise, the wing evaluated command and control and emergency response actions and then evaluated the appropriateness of the wing’s approach to each situation, said Bill Edwards, 21st Space Wing Exercise Evaluation Team chief.
There likely will be more joint exercises planned, Mr. Edwards said. The joint exercises are meant to evaluate existing plans and determine if they are viable or not.
During the May Condor Crest exercise, officials from NORTHCOM had an opportunity to run their Continuity of Operations Program – which means they set up a remote command and control facility when or if their command and control facility is no longer available to them for any reason.
“In this case, we had a dirty bomb that caused the building to be unusable,” Mr. Edwards said. “They had to COOP to perform operations.”
The 21st SW’s exercises are developed over months by more than 200 subject matter experts. The goal is to develop realistic scenarios based on current local and worldwide threats, Mr. Edwards said. Each exercise is geared toward improving wing processes. In the joint exercises, the wing is ensuring it can respond with other organizations.
“All the objectives we set out to accomplish as part of emergency management exercise were attained,” Mr. Edwards said. “The unit accomplished everything we asked of them.”
The wing also performed a joint exercise May 5 with the Colorado Springs Airport that simulated a civilian airplane crash with military personnel casualties and massive injuries.
The exercise was an opportunity for the wing to set up its Emergency Family Assistance Control Center, which assists military family members with legal, spiritual, physical and administrative needs and assists family members who have loved ones suffering from crisis events.
The 21st SW and airport officials exercise jointly every three years. Also included in the exercise were Colorado Springs police and fire personnel, American Medical Response and other regional mutual aid personnel.
“Our goal was to assist the airport and Peterson AFB with a joint emergency management plan so our responses are correct for airport emergency situations,” Mr. Edwards said. “There is an existing emergency response plan – this was our exercise to update that plan.”