By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — A mysterious chemical odor in the parking lot, and a suspicious individual on the heels of a threat warning has all of the makings of a real-world scenario to test the readiness of any installation.
It was just an exercise Jan. 27-31, but base readiness and force protection is not a matter to be taken lightly. This is the driving purpose behind Condor Crest; ensuring that when a crises or disaster strikes, Team Pete is ready to meet the challenge with a full and experienced response.
The exercise may have caused a minor inconvenience to the daily routine and life at Peterson AFB, but it is instrumental in base readiness.
“Base exercises play a critical role in demonstrating the wing’s capabilities in contingency response, agency coordination, and cooperation with local civilian support agencies,” said Capt. Americo Penaflor, 21st Space Wing Inspector General office.
Beyond the initial first responders, who are most visible to base personnel, there are many different levels of response when dealing with a serious or base-wide event.
“Although first responders receive the majority of the attention, unit performance during internal events contributes equally to the overall success of the wing,” said Melinda Clearwater, 21st Space Wing Inspector General office. “Cross-functional communications between the incident commander on scene, the emergency operations center, the crisis action team, and the command post are put to the test during exercises in a way that enables deliberate evaluation and adjustments. This is a critical opportunity for our leadership and first responders to ensure readiness.”
Providing a realistic scenario for everyone involved in the exercise is critical to getting maximum effectiveness out of the event. This experience helps to build confidence for people to rely on should a real emergency arise.
“It is important that each exercise is planned to address the current environment and threats. We understand there will always be exercise constraints and daily task interference, but when everyone gives it their best effort, everyone gains experience,” said LJ Van Belkum, 21st Space Wing Inspector General office.
Force protection is not isolated to any specific base, but rather encompasses all Department of Defense installations in the region, who work together with local law enforcement. This piece was exercised when the scenario spilled over to Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station where a suspicious individual appeared and caused a base-wide lockdown and simulated hostage scenario.
“In addition to the wing’s responsibility for Peterson AFB, there are 14 geographically separated units that report directly to the wing,” said Penaflor. By including CMAFS, the wing tested and inspected its ability to communicate and control an emergency management scenario at a GSU. The command and control structure is vital to guaranteeing proper communication and information flow to maintain situational awareness and to help our leadership make the most informed decision possible.”
Condor Crest is a unique opportunity for participants to test skills and learn from their mistakes in a controlled environment.
“The actions and attitude of each Airman and civilian directly affect the effectiveness and performance of the wing. Respond like you mean it, and when the real thing happens, you will be ready,” said Van Belkum.
With experience comes confidence, and with another Condor Crest complete, Team Pete has strengthened its ability to meet any challenge that may arise.
“Every individual involved in the exercise should take an honest assessment of their actions, good and bad, and develop or maintain best practices or determine lessons learned to improve in the future,” said Clearwater. “It’s a learning experience.”
Even though this exercise is over, training, preparation and readiness never stops. Protecting the force is the highest priority, second only to the mission, and must remain in the forefront of all we do as a base, community and Air Force.
“Training and readiness is continuous. Individual units are encouraged to practice internal exercises between Condor Crest events to maintain and improve proficiency,” said Penaflor.