Commander pays visit to Cavalier AFS

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Last week, Chief Master Sgt. Tim Omdal and I had the distinct privilege of visiting the men and women of the 10th Space Warning Squadron, another one of our geographically separated units at Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D. 

Making the trip with us was Senior Airman Tyson Johnson from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron. Airman Johnson, a distinguished graduate and recipient of the Airman Leadership School's Academic Achievement Award, joins the list of other outstanding 21st Space Wing Airmen who have traveled with us on our trips outside of Peterson. Because of the outstanding visit put on by the "Spartans" of 10th SWS, Airman Johnson came away with a much better understanding of missile warning and space control operations ... quite a departure from his regular duties in the 21 CES. 

Our visit to Cavalier turned out to be quite timely, coming on the heels of a national event in which 10th SWS was a key player. The event, known as Operation Burnt Frost, involved a number of important actions from various 21st Operations Group units both before and after the recent Navy shoot down of a non-functioning U.S. satellite. Not only did the 10th SWS provide satellite observations of the targeted satellite before the shoot down, but the unit also came up with a tactical plan to handle the large volume of debris our Space Surveillance Network would have to process immediately following the intercept. 

One of the architects of this plan was Capt. Nicole "Gucci" Petrucci, the unit's lead weapons officer, who was invaluable in adjusting current operations protocols in order to meet the requirements of Burnt Frost. She also provided an 'A+' briefing to us during our visit, outlining the 10th SWS role in this historic event. Lt. Col. Keith Balts, 10th SWS commander, should be very proud of his team for laying the groundwork on this tactical plan, one that could be shared as a benchmark with other radar units. 

Having now had the opportunity to visit each of our Continental U.S.-based missile warning radars, I see many similarities Cavalier has with other 21st SW geographically separated units. For one, the10th SWS has a great relationship with its host base, Grand Forks AFB, N.D.. Although an Air Mobility Command base and home to the 319th Aerial Refueling Wing, Grand Forks provides invaluable support, particularly in the areas of security forces and medical services. 

In fact, members of the 319th Security Forces Squadron pull four-day alerts when providing installation protection for Cavalier due to the unit's location 96 miles away. In addition, the 319th Medical Group does a great job in keeping our 10th SWS members' medical readiness at peak levels. Although Peterson still provides essential reach-back support to Cavalier, we are grateful to have Grand Forks assist in these important areas.
Another similarity the 10th SWS has with some of our other geographically separated units is that it operates under very tough and isolated conditions. 

During our visit alone, the temperature reached a low of negative 18 degrees Fahrenheit in an area that is sparsely populated. Nevertheless, the unit maintains a close-knit atmosphere where everyone pulls together both on and off duty. For example, one of the pre-planned events of last week included a "Wii" video game boxing tournament. Just about everyone turned out to either participate or cheer on those from the unit who were signed up to play. Starting from a field of 24 competitors, the winner would ultimately face me in the final round. It just so happens, the winner from the field of 24 was Chief Omdal. Unfortunately for him, and much to his dismay, he had to absorb a first round "technical knockout" at my hands, a feat I won't let him live down anytime soon! 

Another highlight from the visit to Cavalier was meeting Mrs. Kim Hartjen, our 21st SW nominee for the "Joan Orr Award." This award is given to the civilian spouse who makes the most significant contributions to the Air Force. Mrs. Hartjen was the hands-down winner in the wing due to her heavy involvement in the Cavalier AFS Spouse's Club. Even though she is raising four children while her husband serves a 12 month remote to Thule Air Base, Greenland, she is still the most active member in the club. Her contributions go beyond her physical support as demonstrated by her infectious attitude which provides such a positive influence around the base. Once her husband returns from Thule, the Hartjen family will be moving on to Vandenberg AFB, Calif. She will truly be missed at Cavalier; however, I have no doubts she will make just as big of an impact at her new home in Vandenberg. 

Before closing this week's article, I'd like to pass on my congratulations to Capt. Bobby Hutt and Staff Sgt. Jeff Guynn for their outstanding preparation and briefing during the recent CORONA conference at Bolling AFB, D.C.. This conference is held three times a year and provides senior Air Force leadership, including the secretary and chief of staff, the opportunity to discuss issues affecting the Air Force's future. One aspect of CORONA typically features Airmen who share their experiences from the front lines and Captain Hutt and Sergeant Guynn did a superb job representing the 21st Space Wing with their briefing. In the words of Gen. C. Robert Kehler, AFSPC commander, the 21st SW briefings were "grand slams." 

Finally, I'd like to remind everyone about the grand opening of Peterson's Aquatics Center March 14. It's been 16, long months since the facility was last open; however, there have been a number of improvements that make it well worth the wait. This includes an entirely new roof made with state-of-the-art roofing and skylights, a new hot tub and sauna system and a newly-covered epoxy floor deck with a non-skid surface. I know each of you will agree once you visit for the first time that this is a world-class facility, so come on out and enjoy March 14's grand opening -- I hope to see you there.