Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

Engineers help clean up catastrophic mudslide

Photo by Sgt. William Smith. Sgt. Robert Riojas, right, and Spcs. Jordan Bellows, center, and Jason Barth, all mechanics with 615th Engineer Company, 52nd Engineer Battalion, dig a drainage ditch to remove water from a work area at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Sept. 13.

By Sgt. William Smith

4th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

Heavy equipment operators from the 615th Engineer Company cleared one lane of the 1.5-mile road from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station Gate 1 to the North Portal of up to 8 feet of debris, as of Tuesday.

The Fort Carson Soldiers were called upon Sept. 13 to support recovery efforts due to massive flooding statewide from significant amounts of rainfall, including across Highway 115 on Cheyenne Mountain.

As part of the severe weather reaction force, the 615th Eng., 52nd Engineer Battalion, responded to help restore access to the North Portal of the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force

Station after a mudslide blocked the entrance, Sept. 12.

“The amount of debris and size of the boulders that came down the side of the mountain were significant,” said Dale Ross, incident commander and assistant chief of operations, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station. “The equipment that we have here on station was inadequate to move that size and amount of debris.

“The 52nd Engineer Battalion is good at what they do,” he said. “They brought in large heavy equipment, manpower (and) trucks and they were able to move what we weren’t with our own resources.”

The 615th Eng. Soldiers were swift in their response to the situation, responding in less than five hours.

“The biggest obstacle for us to overcome was getting all of our equipment ready and getting up there as soon as we could,” said 2nd Lt. Michelle Cody, platoon leader, 615th Eng. “We received a phone call at 9 a.m. and had all of our equipment and personnel starting clean up by 1:30 p.m.”

Staff Sgt. Cory Springer, heavy equipment operator, 615th Eng., said the goal is to help Cheyenne Mountain AFS return to normal as soon as possible.

“Our goal as of right now is to get as much of this debris out of here as possible and to get the water to drain out of the tunnel,” Springer said Sept. 13. “Once that is done we can make a path so that the Air Force and civilian personnel can get back to where they need to go.”

The Soldiers of the 615th Eng. said they enjoyed the experience of working with another branch of the military.

“The most rewarding part of this mission is to be able to help our Air Force brethren out, so their mission can continue,” Springer said. “The second biggest reward is our operators getting a real-world mission; not just out in the field, digging.”

Ross said he is grateful for the quick response.

“The relationship between the Army and the Air Force in the Colorado Springs area is seamless,” he said. “We have worked together through many events, whether it be the Waldo Canyon or the Black Forest fires, or whether it were a fire here on Cheyenne Mountain. This is just another challenge and another hurdle that we are handling together. It’s seamless — the call goes out and they come.”

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