By Dave Smith
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Engaging a group of key area civic leaders, 21st Space Wing Commander Col. Doug Schiess presented his State of the Wing address Thursday, Oct. 6 at the Peterson AFB Club.
The address provided civic leaders with a summary of Schiess’ first full fiscal year leading the wing, as well as a glimpse into what is next for the command. The event also introduces civic leaders to members of the commander’s leadership team with the aim of fostering a strong working relationship with them.
“The state of the wing is strong and we continue to grow,” Schiess said. “We are full of great Americans who are committed to pay whatever price is needed to maintain our freedom.”
2016 has been a year of strengthened partnerships between the 21st SW and community organizations, though not always under the best circumstances, said Schiess. The year included the June crash of an Air Force Thunderbird following the U. S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony, an on-going investigation into chemical contamination of area groundwater, and Team Pete’s continuing rebound from the devastating July hail storm that brought softball-sized hail down on the installation.
On a more positive note, he mentioned the success of the base’s Air Force Community Partnerships.
“Our AFCPs continue to soar,” Schiess said. “We continue to … foster strong community partnerships.”
Current partnerships include The Front Range Bases and El Paso County Joint Public Works Management Bulk Commodities Purchase partnership, which brings community entities and PAFB together to make advantageous purchases for both groups; The Coordinated Transport Services program focuses on improving transition assistance services provided to retiring Airmen entering the community; The Peterson and Pikes Peak Community College Experimental Learning Internship is a collaboration with Pikes Peak Community College providing students with practical internships; and the Peterson and Memorial Hospital Medical Training initiative featuring a number of partnership initiatives with the hospital providing nearby training for Airmen.
Based on the success of existing partnerships, there are other AFCPs in the works. Potential partnerships include: Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station experiential learning, working with the University of Colorado and the Colorado School of Mines in utilizing hard-rock engineer specialties; CMAFS Emergency Services for Wildland Fires responding to mutual aid requests and training with area emergency responders; and Shared Craftsman/Technical Training helping local civil engineer communities coordinate common technical training sessions.
The Thunderbird F-16 crash is an example of the benefit to community and Peterson organizations working together smoothly. Schiess said the response to the emergency was the dividend of regional emergency planning that began with the Black Forest fire in 2013.
“The firefighter, law enforcement, and community engagement efforts were a total success,” he said. “It was a huge team effort. It was a job well done and that comes all the way from the President, who was here at the time.”
Another opportunity for the wing to interact with community partners came following reports that elevated levels of chemical contaminants were found in local drinking water supplies. Base representatives have worked closely with state and El Paso County partners and city officials from Fountain, Security and Widefield to assist in the situation, including providing alternate sources of drinking water, collecting data, and actively working with federal and state regulators to address concerns. Peterson is actively engaged in serving as the conduit between the Air Force elements in charge of the situation and affected communities, said Schiess.
Beside the many working relationships the 21st SW has with its community partners, one thing that cannot be overlooked is the economic impact the base has upon the region. Schiess said Peterson AFB has roughly $1 million worth of impact per acre of ground it covers, or about $1.26 billion annually.
As wing commander, Schiess said he looks forward to strengthening community partnerships and making sure Team Pete continues to be a valued neighbor in the Front Range.
“We will not stop creating solutions that make sense,” he said.