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By Airman Ryan Prince
/ Published April 22, 2021
During heavy snow over the weekend of March 13, 2021, multiple mission essential units were snowed in, or had to work around the snow, at Peterson Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. Units had to work over time while being snowed in due to their critical missions having to be continuously performed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)
During heavy snow over the weekend of March 13, 2021, multiple mission essential units were snowed in, or had to work around the snow, at Peterson Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.
According to U.S. Space Force 1st Lt. Timothy Horton, 21st Communications Squadron alpha crew commander at Cheyenne Mountain AFS, some crews had to stay 48 to 72 hours in the mountain to maintain around the clock operations to support no-fail missions.
“Contingencies have been in place for operations here at the mountain in cases of emergency,” Horton said. “We are always prepared to button up and stay in the mountain for an extended period of time.”
Cheyenne Mountain AFS provides cots, sleeping bags and meals, ready to eat when necessary, to support hosted combatant command centers and Department of Defense agencies. These assets are provided to mission partners if they become snowed in during shifts or to mitigate the requirement to travel to Cheyenne Mountain.
The 1st Space Operations Squadron crew members at Schriever AFB had to stay in place due to weather and road conditions as well.
“1st SOPS personnel were on the operations floor in [continuous] support of the mission,” said U.S. Space Force Senior Master Sgt. Richard Justice, 1st SOPS senior enlisted leader.
Food was provided to snowed-in personnel by the squadron and previous crews in preparation for the snow.
“The unit spent the week prior to the storm tracking weather updates and ensuring that crews would be prepared for an extended time on the operations floor,” Justice said. “1st SOPS maintains a cache of storm supplies such as MREs, cots, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets and personal supplies to support crews who are conducting the ‘protect and defend’ mission through the storm.”
At Peterson AFB, one critical operation that can be affected by snowfall is keeping the airfield up and running.
“We work with [the] 21st [Civil Engineer Squadron] heavy shop, who provided the personnel and equipment to clear the snow on the apron,” said U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Phonkamon Gehres, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron airfield management operations supervisor. “Airfield management conducts pavement friction reading tests, [which] helps pilots to safely land and taxi. We communicate with Colorado Springs Municipal Airport operations [to] synchronize our snow operations. We inspect the apron for any hazards and alert [the] proper agencies weather notifications.”
The Airmen on the airfield did not get stuck during the winter storm, however, they faced their own set of challenges in support of the mission.
“Most airfield management personnel live off-base,” Gehres said. “Therefore, some have to drive through hazard road conditions [and] get out earlier to ensure [they] get in on time,”
Airfield management and the 21st CES heavy shop have an annually reviewed snow plan to ensure the apron is continually mission ready, according to Gehres.
The 21st LRS also have the responsibility of reporting on and forecasting snow fall.
“We supported all parts of the garrison, sending updates to Peterson leadership as well as Schriever and Cheyenne [Mountain],” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Julian McAlister, 21st LRS weather office flight chief. “We were fielding a large amount of phone calls and sending out regular forecast updates.”
According to McAlister, forecasters who had to stay late were able to stay in base lodging to avoid driving at night through the snow storm.
The 21st Force Support Squadron had their hands full during the snow storm as well.
“Overall we supported six agencies, providing 114 meals, 17 MRE cases, 28 cots and 36 lodging rooms,” said U. S. Air Force Capt. Jamila Edgerson, 21st FSS operations officer. “Additionally, our child and youth facility opened its doors to support the children of mission essential workers on Monday.”