By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Sharing a runway has resulted in an innovative relationship between the 21st Space Wing, the 302nd Airlift Wing, a 21st SW mission partner, and the Colorado Springs airport.
According to Tech. Sgt. Amanda Callahan, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs NCO in charge, the wing and the airport had an informal agreement for years that in case of an aircraft emergency, the wing and the airport would work together to respond to media questions.
This inventive agreement was put to the test in 2011. Jeff Bohn, 21st SW PA chief of community outreach, was on call for the PA office that Sunday. Calls starting pouring in from local media outlets about a C-130 with a landing gear problem.
The PA staff quickly gathered in their office to collect information about the aircraft, put together media packets and release the information to the public, Callahan said. By the time the team arrived at the airport, droves of media had already flooded the airport lobby. The wing’s spokespeople took over the area, but in a way that was appropriate and appreciated by airport staff members.
Without the agreement between the wing and the airport, getting media to the scene would be a lengthy process. “Without the agreement, we would have to coordinate to meet media at the visitor’s center, get them media passes, and coordinate with the logistics readiness squadron to provide transportation to the scene,” Callahan said.
The C-130 incident ended without injuries, but it was apparent that the informal deal the 21st SW public affairs office had with the airport needed to become official.
Within weeks, a memorandum of agreement was drafted to officially create a partnership between the 21st SW’s public affairs office and the airport staff, and create efficiencies to quickly inform the public.
“In the event of a military aircraft incident or emergency, both agencies agreed the airport would be where media outlets would arrive due to its accessibility. However, the airport’s public information officers may not be the most appropriate spokespeople during a military aircraft incident. Therefore, it was important both sides agree the wing’s public affairs staff have some sort of designated area at the airport,” Callahan said.
And both sides agreed. After about six months of legal reviews, coordination and routing, a MOA was signed between the 21st SW chief of public affairs and the city of Colorado Springs’ director of aviation. The agreement will allow for quick, centralized and efficient public affairs response to aircraft emergencies at the airport.
“This agreement expedites the process of quickly and efficiently getting accurate information to the public,” Callahan said. “Instead of coordinating for media to have base access, the public affairs office is able to focus on its mission.”