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Peterson snow removal team keeps base members safe

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Matthew Cincotta, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment vehicle operator, uses a snow plow to remove snow from the flightline here Feb. 4. The 21st CES has four plows specifically for the flightline. Heavy equipment vehicle operators work in teams of three or four to clear the flightline as quickly as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Matthew Cincotta, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment vehicle operator, uses a snow plow to remove snow from the flightline here Feb. 4. The 21st CES has four plows specifically for the flightline. Heavy equipment vehicle operators work in teams of three or four to clear the flightline as quickly as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Matthew Cincotta, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment vehicle operator, uses a snow plow to remove snow from the flightline here Feb. 4. The 21st CES has four plows specifically for the flightline. Heavy equipment vehicle operators work in teams of three or four to clear the flightline as quickly as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Staff Sgt. Matthew Cincotta, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment vehicle operator, uses a snow plow to remove snow from the flightline here Feb. 4. The 21st CES has four plows specifically for the flightline. Heavy equipment vehicle operators work in teams of three or four to clear the flightline as quickly as possible. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Master Sgt. Juan Rodriguez, 21st Space Wing Protocol NCO in charge, uses a snow thrower to remove snow from the walkway to protocol from the flightline Feb. 4. The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron relies on building managers, augmentees and contractors to clear the walkways on base during and after snow. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Master Sgt. Juan Rodriguez, 21st Space Wing Protocol NCO in charge, uses a snow thrower to remove snow from the walkway to protocol from the flightline Feb. 4. The 21st Civil Engineer Squadron relies on building managers, augmentees and contractors to clear the walkways on base during and after snow. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- One of three snow plows from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron sits on the flightline Feb. 4. The 21st Operations Support Squadron will call the 21st CES to clear the flightline depending on the operations for the day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- One of three snow plows from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron sits on the flightline Feb. 4. The 21st Operations Support Squadron will call the 21st CES to clear the flightline depending on the operations for the day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Morgan)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- With the chance of snow falling nearly eight months of the year, Team Pete members must weather difficult and sometimes treacherous streets to arrive safely at work. One section of their trip is never a concern though. Once a driver reaches the base, they are welcomed by smooth -- and most of the time dry -- roadways freshly cleared by 21st Civil Engineer Squadron heavy equipment operators.

"We get a lot of compliments on our work around base for snow events," said Maj. Andrew Clemmensen, 21st CES operations flight chief. "The best compliment is when a member enters base and says it's like they entered a new city."

The effort to clear the base of snow and ice hardly ever follows normal duty hours, but typically ebbs and flows when the snow starts and stops. The 21st CES heavy equipment operators sometimes work more than 12 hours a day in order to keep roads clear, and according to their customers, they do an excellent job.

The team of 28 heavy vehicle operators -- 14 per shift -- is led by two team leads who drive around base to monitor road conditions. Their day typically starts earlier than most and they are always on standby to report when needed. The teams drive several different types of vehicles ranging from plows with sand in the back to large snow blowers for the flightline.

Tech. Sgt. Jorge Rivera Rivera, 21st CES day shift snow removal lead, sets the priorities of what needs to be cleared first, which typically starts with main roads including Peterson, Ent, Paine and Stewart.

His control center, aptly named Snow Control, consists of two members managing software and taking calls. The software shows a picture of the base where each section or road can be labeled with its priority, the time a team member arrived, and the time the area was finished.

Sometimes the flightline reaches the top priority depending on the schedule of aircraft for the day. Secondary priorities include parking lots and side roadways. Ultimately, the snow removal lead will make judgment calls to remove snow in certain areas.

While snow removal is a large portion of the workload for the team, preventive measures are also a key to success for the team, said Rivera Rivera.

Before the snow season, a snow and ice committee will meet and discuss the plan for the snowy season. This committee includes everyone from the 21st CES to the 21st Space Wing Public Affairs Office, said Clemmensen.

During this meeting, a priority matrix is made by the wing commander and the rest of the committee. For example, on Sunday, the parking lot and roads to the Peterson Chapel become a priority, or on Reserve Unit Training Assembly weekends, parking lots and roadways to the 302nd Airlift Wing will be placed on high priority.

The preventive measures also include having members on snow watch. If snow is expected throughout the night, night shift heavy equipment operators will either be on base watching the roads or off-base on standby. Most of the time, these members switch shifts throughout the snow season according to the different needs of the snow removal team.

Overall, the team works long hours to make the base safe for everyone else, but they enjoy doing it.

"Our job is awesome sometimes and sometimes it's stressful," said Rivera Rivera. "My team is hard-working and they enjoy doing something they can see and something that keeps people safe and benefits everyone. At the same time, when our equipment breaks down, or there is a lot of snow, we have to keep up and do our job."

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