By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. — Sept. 12, 2013 brought record rain to Cheyenne Mountain as well as tons of mud, rock and forest debris, which caused extensive damage to the installation.
The event also showed to be an opportunity for the Airmen of the Mountain to prove their mettle.
The rains came and went and the mud and rock were cleared, restoring the main portal of Cheyenne Mountain. Months have passed since this devastating event, however, the hard work and dedication of those involved in the restoration remains fresh in everyone’s minds. During an awards ceremony at the mountain fortress Feb. 7, the commander recognized the outstanding performance of 21 personnel from the 721st Mission Support Group.
“This record landslide proved the mettle of our team and community,” said Col. Travis Harsha, 721st Mission Support Group and Cheyenne Mountain AFS installation commander. “With exceptional skill, professionalism and tenacity, our men and women worked seamlessly with AFSPC, Fort Carson and Peterson AFB engineers; Colorado Springs Utilities and Colorado Springs Fire Department Station 16 to safely and expeditiously clean up the mountain. They helped ensure no one was injured and there was no operational impact inside the mountain.”
Many of the personnel recognized were among the first on the scene, relying on their skills and training to take charge and secure the site.
“At the moment it happened, our security forces were on it; securing the site and adjusting security around the portal to the mountain,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Dooms, 721st Mission Support Group superintendent and Cheyenne Mountain AFS senior enlisted advisor.
Although the awards were earned for different achievements, the awardees all possess the same character traits of loyalty and commitment needed to complete the mission at hand.
“It goes back to one of our core values: service before self — the long and stressful hours to ensure that operations at the mountain were not interrupted. They all performed admirably,” said Dooms.
Dooms, who arrived at CMAFS a few months after the incident, was shocked to learn how massive the mudslide was.
“I really didn’t know how bad it was until I saw the pictures. There was (about) 6 to 12 feet of rock and mud blocking the North Portal. Just amazing,” said Dooms. “It was a daunting task and the personnel rose to the challenge. They worked non-stop for days to clear debris, all the while maintaining security and continuing the mission in the mountain,” said Dooms. “It is really nice to highlight and illustrate the hard work and achievement of what our folks do up here.”
With so many people and different agencies involved in the recovery effort, selecting only a handful of award recipients proved to be a challenge of its own.
“There were more than 150 people helping out up here throughout the whole ordeal. It was extremely hard to determine and identify the handful of people to receive awards,” said Dooms. “These awards recognize the contributions of all those who served during the crisis — from Fort Carson, Peterson, CMAFS and the community — we couldn’t be more grateful.”
Air Force Achievement Medal recipients
Master Sgt. Christopher McCrady, 721st Security Forces Squadron
Master Sgt. Ian Mirkes, 721st SFS
Tech Sgt. Joel Bueke, 721st SFS
Tech Sgt. Duane Long, 721st SFS
Staff Sgt. Oscar Hernandez, 721st SFS
Staff Sgt. Matthew Lalinde, 721st SFS
Staff Sgt. Christopher Long, 721st SFS
Airman 1st Class Hayden Crouse, 721st SFS
Airman 1st Class Samuel Laux, 721st SFS
Airman 1st Class Brandon Nettles, 721st SFS
Airman 1st Class Zachary Woodall, 721st SFS
Tech Sgt. Tony Ramos, 721st Communications Squadron
Staff Sgt. Alex Gaviria, 721st CS
Staff Sgt. Jared Rodriguez, 721st CS
Jason Cook, 721st Civil Engineer Squadron
Jeffery Hamilton, 721st CES
Mark Pohlman, 721st CES
Walter Schmidt, 721st CES
Kevin Thompson, 721st CES
Randall Vanderlin, 721st CES
Tyler Nielsen, 721st CES