News: Wyoming Air Power's ground forces go to work
Story by 1st Lt. Christian Venhuizen
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Inside of the classroom at the Wyoming Air National Guard’s fire station lay the guts of the Air Power Air Show’s hub designed to deal with a multitude of disasters or emergency situations.
The emergency operations center for the air show stretched across the room filled with computers, phones, radios and live video feeds from the show. It’s where key personnel are stationed “just in case.”
“Just in case something were to happen,” said Lt. Col. Pete Linde, the center’s director and commander of the 153rd Mission Support Group. “We have pre-designated plans for every incident.”
The 153rd Airlift Wing and the Wyoming Air National Guard ran through a host of scenarios and possibilities in the months before opening the unit’s air base in Cheyenne, Wyo., to more than 10,000 air show visitors and a dozen aerial demonstrations, Linde said. It’s part of the background work the air show guests don’t normally see.
“Our primary function is, we’re support to the incident scene commander and we’re the eyes and ears of the wing command staff,” he said. “We’re there for the care and feeding of the incident.”
“It’s a big effort,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Abbot, with the 153rd Security Forces Squadron. “We spent months planning for this.” Abbot and his squadron of airmen specialize in law enforcement and security for the base.
While the emergency operations center primarily comes to life when an emergency happens, security forces are there doing background work and providing a visible security presence.
“This is normal core stuff that we do,” Abbot said of his unit’s duties, that include interacting with the public, performing security checks and protecting secured areas of the base. All of which began with months of planning and coordinating, he said.
“We get briefings from local law enforcement. We get briefings from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations,” Abbot said of planning for event security. “We take all that intelligence, we put it all together and we come up with a threat assessment.”
The Wyoming Air National Guard Base is an active hub for National Guard and active duty C-130 cargo plane squadrons. While the base was open to the public to see the displays, there were still areas where work continued.
Abbot said the efforts the airmen put in to making the event safe, while maintaining a fun environment for the public, should be commended.
“They make me proud,” he said of his airmen. “I am proud of everything they do, not only what they do for the wing, but for the community.”
While security forces provided direct contact with the public, communications between the military hosts and civilian vendors fell to the 153rd Communications Flight. The flight provided radio, telephone and Internet services.
“It gets us out of working the common computer problems we have day-to-day,” Capt. Eric Green, commander of the flight, said. “It really focuses on that deployed aspect, especially the radio piece of it and working the emergency operations center.”
The flight not only serves as the communications unit for the 153rd Airlift Wing, but deploys with the Wyoming National Guard’s Joint Task Force to state emergencies. Green and his unit deployed in 2010 to assist Wyoming communities dealing with flooding.
Green said the air show has a lot of training value for his unit, for state missions and federal deployments. “It’s good training all the way around.”
The communications system the flight set up extended beyond security forces and the emergency operations center. Green said the vendors and others were set up with telephones and Internet capabilities.
“We’re out there actually putting the radio communications piece to work,” he said. “We made sure fire and security forces could talk to the local police departments.”
Green said that ability to communicate was critical to the emergency operations center, particularly if it needed to go into action.