PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --
Sending an alert text message to Airmen every 15 minutes during an emergency situation is one very small piece of the equation that makes up what is the Colorado Springs Regional Command Post, which is located at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
On a day-to-day basis, the CSRCP, also known as a Command and Control node, performs mission monitoring, operational reporting, relays command direction, and facilitates receipt and dissemination of orders, information and requests for its five wing commanders. This includes monitoring and managing emergencies for the 21st Space Wing, 302nd Airlift Wing, 50th Space Wing, 310th Space Wing and 10th Air Base Wing; and Peterson AFB, Schriever Air Force Base and the United States Air Force Academy.
“We do emergency management for the entire Colorado Springs region,” said Master Sgt. Kristine Piper, 21st SW Command Post C2 operations noncommissioned officer in charge. “So any type of emergency that goes on, when that requires a wing-type response, we are responsible for that.
“It could be vehicle accidents on base, incidents, emergencies at the fire department, deaths, active shooters, those types of situations.”
The CSRCP, which has 69 tenant units and is manned by active duty and reserve Airmen to manage emergencies for the five wings and three installations, is also the centralized C2 node for 32 Geographically Separated Units, safeguarding more than 90,000 personnel and $3.2 billion in Air Force assets.
In emergencies, the Command Post uses the Installation Notification and Warning System or Emergency Mass Notification System to alert the bases, according to Senior Master Sgt. Reginald Palmer, 21st SW Command Post command and control operations active duty superintendent.
“Those are mechanisms we utilize to get the information out,” Palmer said. “So it could be the giant voice, it could be a text message, phone call, email or public affairs announcement. It could be any of those things and it’s driven by the desires of the installation commander. Our installation commanders will tell us ‘Hey, this is how we want you to get the message out,’ so we utilize all those platforms to make sure the population knows.”
“In layman's terms we’re kind of like a 911 dispatch center,” Palmer said. “Just like the city of Colorado Springs, emergencies are called in and we ensure the right people are informed. That’s really what we do on a government scale.”
In November, an active shooter simulation was orchestrated by the 21st SW Inspector General office as part of Condor Crest, a bi-annual readiness exercise that tests capabilities of men and women on base. In this simulation, Command Post sent warning text messages to phones every 15 minutes.
At the Command Post, emergency actions controllers work 12-hour shifts, and the post itself runs 24/7. The Airmen who work in the Command Post, many of whom are 18-20 years old, have to be in constant contact with wing leadership, said Lt. Col. Matthew Lieber, 21st SW Command Post chief.
“It can definitely be a lot of pressure managing five wings and three installations,” said Lieber. “We have a lot of young Airmen, and you can see they do an excellent job doing command and control for all the wing commanders.”
“They’re like information brokers. They bring the information in and they up-channel it to where it needs to go — to organizations that need it so they can do their job and keep all the bases safe.”
The Command Post handles many tasks, but some have a misconception of what the Command Post is, said Palmer.
“One of the biggest misconceptions of the Command Post is that we’re just an operator,” said Palmer. “We do have the capability to do a phone patch (and we do that often), but our job is way bigger than just patching someone through to another agency or another individual on the installation.”
Other duties of the Command Post include support services for aircrafts and flight following.
“We coordinate support services for the aircrafts that are flying in,” said Piper. “If there are any emergencies with that aircraft, we respond to that as well, to ensure that the right agencies are on scene to render the proper care that’s necessary.”
Alerting bases of lightning, snow and other climate conditions is also part of the job. In 2017, the Command Post sent out more than 1,500 weather warnings across the three installations.
“Notifications and alerting is really why we’re here — to get the message out,” Palmer said. “Whether it’s every 15 minutes, every 5 minutes, or daily, whatever that is, our responsibility is to get it out, to keep the base population informed of what’s required, because we don’t want somebody walking out and they don’t know there’s an active shooter. We’re here to safeguard and alert the population.”