PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo --
Having lived in Colorado Springs for 13 years, I’m sad I was uneducated on what military bases were located here and what their significance was to this city and for our protection.
My only experience and interaction with the Air Force and military started in January 2018, when I was hired as a contract writer for the 21st Space Wing Public Affairs office.
Since starting, I’ve had the privilege to explore Peterson Air Force Base, visit Schriever Air Force Base and recently I was given the opportunity to take a full industrial area tour of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station — home of Northern American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. North Command’s Alternate Command Center and the U.S. Strategic Command’s Missile Warning Center.
In August, I tagged along with my colleagues to document with pictures and videos the inside of the granite mountain. Not everyone is lucky enough to get this opportunity, since tours of CMAFS are not open to the public.
I left the tour flabbergasted and a little upset that I, someone who claims to know a decent amount about Colorado Springs, the city I was practically raised in, had no idea what goes on 20 minutes down the road from me.
With our hard hats on and cameras and lights ready, it felt as if my PA group was on a secret mission walking through one of the three impenetrable blast doors to enter into 5 acres worth of large man-made tunnels, built underneath 2,000 feet of granite.
As we paced through the tour, it was hard not to notice the amount of extreme detail and precision that went into building this station, which became fully operational as the NORAD Command Combat Operations Center in 1967.
More than 1,300 giant springs — weighing in at 1,000 lbs. each — are lined up in rows to hold up the 15 buildings, 12 of which are three stories tall. Many of its rooms are filled with large pipes, which help support its power plant, heating and cooling system and water supply.
The springs are used to prevent seismic shock from damaging CMAFS during an attack, and the blast valves can prevent shock wave from entering the station.
CMAFS also has filters for its combustion and personnel air systems to prevent lethal airborne agents.
One of the most unexpected and interesting parts of the tour was seeing and learning about the three reservoirs inside the mountain.
The three reservoirs include a diesel fuel reservoir, a drinking water reservoir and an industrial reservoir. Between the three, these reservoirs can store more than 4.5 million gallons.
These reservoirs are used as cooling systems and to provide water for CMAFS for various uses.
Another part of the tour included walking past the diesel generator, which serves as a backup power source for the station. Outside of the mountain, CMAFS also houses a newly rebuilt fire station.
Being able to walk through what was created during the Cold War era, and to see history before my eyes was an experience I’ve added to my knowledge of Colorado Springs, and I hope more people like me, whether natives or from another state, will have the chance to learn just as much about CMAFS.