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Cheyenne Mountain leaders recognize Fort Carson Soldiers

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. – Col. Travis Harsha, 721st Mission Support Group and Cheyenne Mountain AFS installation commander (left) presented 22 Air Force Achievement Medals to Soldiers from the 615th Engineer Company, 52d Engineer Battalion, Fort Carson, Colo., April 8 at CMAFS. The Soldiers were recognized for their tireless efforts during the initial response to the Sept. 12, 2013, rain storm that brought down tons of mud and debris causing extensive damage to CMAFS and its main entrance portal. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Golembesky)

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. – Col. Travis Harsha, 721st Mission Support Group and Cheyenne Mountain AFS installation commander (left) presented 22 Air Force Achievement Medals to Soldiers from the 615th Engineer Company, 52d Engineer Battalion, Fort Carson, Colo., April 8 at CMAFS. The Soldiers were recognized for their tireless efforts during the initial response to the Sept. 12, 2013, rain storm that brought down tons of mud and debris causing extensive damage to CMAFS and its main entrance portal. (U.S. Air Force photo/Michael Golembesky)

CHEYENNE MOUNTAIN AIR FORCE STATION, Colo. -- When tons of rock, mud and debris came cascading down the hillside last year, engineer Soldiers from the Mountain Post were some of the first on scene.

Senior leaders from Cheyenne Mountain AFS awarded 22 Air Force Achievement Medals April 8 to Soldiers from the 615th Engineer Company, 52d Engineer Battalion, Fort Carson, Colo. The medals were in recognition for their tireless efforts during the initial response to the Sept. 12, 2013, record rain storm that brought down tons of mud and debris down the mountain, which caused extensive damage to CMAFS and its main entrance portal.

"We called Fort Carson for (a mutual aid request), and within an hour they had their engineer reconnaissance team on scene, followed shortly by their heavy equipment and operators. They quickly went to work to reopen the portal entrance and drains and rechanneled water, preventing further damage downstream," said Col. Travis Harsha, 721st Mission Support Group and Cheyenne Mountain AFS installation commander.

The engineers from Fort Carson created access to the main portal, spending nearly a week hauling away the debris.

"Within almost 24 hours, they were able to clear one lane of traffic through the 6-to-12 feet of rock and mud to the tunnel entrance. And despite severe thunderstorms the next couple of days, they were able to get two lanes of traffic open by day five," said Harsha.

"They moved more than 14,000 cubic feet of mud, rock and forest debris in six days, restoring access to the blocked main entrance and preventing flooding in critical facilities," the citation read.

In today's military environment, participation in joint operations with the other branches of service has become commonplace.

"The Soldiers' efforts epitomized Army Strong! Proud, professional and positive...they got 'er done and worked seamlessly with our engineers from Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson," said Harsha. "They prevented a lot more damage and helped us get back on our feet quickly. We'll always be grateful for their exceptional efforts and support."

Two separate citations were read aloud during the presentation ceremony, one for the command element and other for the heavy equipment operators, each highlighting contributions made to the overall clean-up effort at CMAFS.

"This is very rewarding for our Soldiers to be recognized and to be able to come back up here and see all the work that has been done since we left," said 1st Lt. Michelle Cody, 615th EC platoon leader and awardee.

One-by-one, Harsha pinned the silver and blue medal onto the right collar of each Soldier, thanking them for their service.

Air Force Achievement Medal recipients from Fort Carson's 615th Engineer Company, 52d Engineer Battalion include:
Capt. Talisha Lewis
1st Lt. Michelle Cody
Master Sgt. Daniel Morak
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy Bracknell
Staff Sgt. Cory Springer
Sgt. Michael Cavanagh
Sgt. Elvis Kandawasvika
Sgt. Robert Parsons
Sgt. Jarrad Payton
Sgt. Robert Riojas
Sgt. Orlando Santiago
Sgt. Justin Walters
Spc. Jordan Bellows
Spc. Jeremiah Berntson
Spc. Nathan Deering
Spc. Kurtis Hibbitts
Spc. Austin Hollon
Spc. Brian How
Spc. Dean Kleinman
Spc. Donald Townsend
Spc. Michael Vidro
Pfc. Gage Homolka

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