By Staff Sgt. J. Aaron Breeden
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. — CMAFS Airmen are receiving unwavering support from 4th Infantry Division Soldiers, stationed at Fort Carson, Colo., who are clearing tons of debris from the primary tunnel entrance.
For several days, Colorado was saturated with torrential rains, which flooded and devastated many areas across the Centennial State, including Cheyenne Mountain.
On the evening of Sept. 12, a rockslide swept down the hill in front of the north portal, leaving nearly 5,000 cubic yards of mud, rock and uprooted trees.
Col. Travis Harsha, CMAFS and 721st Mission Support Group commander, said that despite the rockslide, the air defense, space surveillance and missile warning missions inside of the mountain remained 100 percent operational.
In fact, the crews working inside of the mountain were completely unaware that a rockslide ever occurred.
Dino Bonaldo, 721st Civil Engineer Squadron director, said that everything started around 9 p.m. Sept. 12, when security forces personnel on-duty described what sounded like an earthquake and soon discovered the massive rockslide blocking access to the north portal.
Bonaldo added that immediately following the incident, the 721st MSG ensured complete accountability for all Cheyenne Mountain personnel without a single injury to report.
Currently, the focus is on the clean-up process, and the support from the 615th Engineer Company, 52nd Engineer Battalion Soldiers at Fort Carson has made a world of difference.
Fort Carson has been key to the clean-up efforts, said Harsha. Within an hour of the request for support, their assessment team was on site and heavy equipment arrived shortly thereafter, he added.
“(The Soldiers) were the primary thrust to gain access into the mountain,” said Bonaldo. They showed up with several pieces of heavy equipment — front end loaders, dump trucks, rock crushers — to get the debris cleared as quickly as possible.”
Bonaldo added that while they are working quickly to clear the main entrance to the station, they are simultaneously trying to ensure minimal impact to the residential community next door.
“We’re trying to prevent down-stream impact,” said Bonaldo. “We’ve got to secure the area closest to the impacted site, and then work out from there.”
The clean-up effort is expected to continue throughout the week with plans to reopen the north portal Sept. 23.
Bonaldo added that despite the difficulties at Cheyenne Mountain over the past few days, the help from neighbors at Fort Carson has made the road to recovery much shorter.
“It’s been a challenging time here,” he said. “(A natural disaster like this) has never happened here before and to have the first responders and engineering team come together so quickly has been great.”