By Michael Golembesky
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. — When the two massive 25-ton blast doors seal at Cheyenne Mountain, nothing gets in or out, leaving the personnel within the secured complex to handle any emergency situation that may arise.
From Oct. 20-26, CMAFS participated in the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command-sponsored annual Vigilant Shield homeland defense exercise. During the exercise, the 721st Mission Support Group tested its readiness and effectiveness of in-house assets to react and recover during an emergency situation when the complex is in a “sealed” status.
“Like NORAD’s bi-national command, teamwork’s key to our success,” said Col. Travis Harsha, 721st Mission Support Group commander. “Vigilant Shield showcases our great teamwork with our mission partners, including NORAD, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command and our support partners, including the 21st Medical Group, wing chaplain, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron and 21st/302nd Force Support Squadron.”
As part of the recent integration of the 21st Space Wing and 302nd Airlift Wing Force Support Squadrons, this year’s Vigilant Shield marked the first time the 302nd AW had taken part in an exercise with the mountain fortress.
“It was important for the 302nd to take part and to provide support to CMAFS during this exercise to show that there can be an integrated plan between active duty and the Reserves to ensure the mission is accomplished, which goes hand-in-hand with the force support squadron integration that we are currently in the process of with the 21st Space Wing,” said Senior Master Sgt. Vicki Robertson, 302nd AW sustainment services superintendent.
The 302nd AW Airmen provided hot meals for personnel within the mountain during the time when the blast doors were sealed. As an additional duty, these Airmen are also trained in mortuary affairs should the need arise. This skillset was put to use when two of the three simulated casualties from the fire outbreak passed away during the training exercise.
“The 302nd Airmen were able to utilize the training they received as field cooks and mortuary affairs operations during the exercise, while also learning how to adapt to life inside the mountain,” said Robertson.
The building complex within the mountain fortress is designed similar to a naval vessel in which any fire outbreak can be compartmentalized and contained to a specific area, limiting the damage and impact to the mission of the mountain. CMAFS firefighters assigned to duty within the mountain are the first line of defense when dealing with this type of situation.
“Cheyenne Mountain mission partners rely on the fire department to provide rapid resolution to emergencies since any event has potential to debilitate subterranean operations critical to national defense. Our firefighters take pride in professional service delivery and this exercise is essential to operating under sealed conditions,” said Christopher Soliz, CMAFS Fire Department assistant chief for training.
Life and mission success within the mountain is a team effort — no one component can function without the other. The mission that is executed on a daily basis within the mountain fortress is critical to homeland and North American defense.
“The exercise was a success for us,” said Harsha. “It validated our great teamwork and honed our people, plans and processes to better support our critical homeland defense mission.”