Community Leaders Tour Cheyenne Mountain Facility
By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May. 6, 2005 Civilian leaders participating in JCOC 69, the Defense Department's latest Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, went deep inside Cheyenne Mountain here May 1 to tour the facility and learn how American airspace is being protected from attack.
JCOC is a DoD program that acquaints civilian business, academic and community leaders with the U.S. military.
Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station hosts four commands: the North American Aerospace Defense Command, Air Force Space Command, U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Northern Command, the newest combatant command, stood up after the terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The JCOC's tour of the facility began with a briefing that explained how NORAD's mission changed after 9/11.
"Before, we were focused outward, but that all changed after 9/11," said Capt. Douglas Slaunwhite, who briefed the group. He explained the new system of interagency cooperation that now exists among NORAD, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon, and the National Capital Region Integrated Air Defense System.
He also talked to the group about other aspects of the NORAD mission -- Operation Noble Eagle, which still is conducting regular air patrols every day over major metropolitan areas and key infrastructure sites; Russian Strategic Aviation, which monitors Russian capabilities despite the end of the Cold War; Presidential Support; and security for special national events.
"We worry about the strategic threat - the old Cold War threat and new threats such as the recent missile launch by North Korea, the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan, and of course asymmetric threats that have become the hallmark of the global war on terror," said Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating, who commands NORTHCOM and NORAD.
Next, the JCOC participants toured the Air Warning Center, where huge electronic maps demonstrated how the various radar-warning systems track internal and external threats, and the CMOC - Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center - depicted in the movie "War Games."
From a conference room overlooking the CMOC, participants observed how emergency action controllers track events. Indeed, while they were there, their tour was interrupted by an event in progress - a suspicious ship coming toward the United States.
As the group was being briefed about the CMOC, the glass was "snapped," or blacked out, covering the windows through which the group was watching the controllers do their jobs. After a few minutes the glass was "unsnapped" and the screens were back in view. However, the disposition of the suspicious ship was not revealed.
Marilyn Sheerer, dean of the College of Education at East Carolina University, said she was "struck by how much the public is unaware of what is being done and how much is being done to protect us from attack."
Toni Filla, a captain in the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, commented on the group's entire weeklong tour of military facilities around the country. "I had no idea what to expect, but the trip went beyond all expectations," she said. "The Pentagon was awesome, the Marines were awesome, the Air Force was awesome, this was awesome. They all went out of their way to show us how things actually happen. It was great."