Cheyenne Mountain exercises 'button-up'

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mandy Weightman
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
The people of Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colo., exercised their "button-up" procedures as part of the 21st Space Wing's recent Operational Readiness Inspection. 

"Button-up" is the process followed to shut the mountain's blast doors -- an action usually executed in response to a strategic threat against the United States. 

The blast doors are three-and-a-half feet thick, weigh 25 tons and are normally closed by a hydraulic pump in 30 to 45 seconds, said 1st Lt. Jeff Crepeau, 721st Mission Support Group executive officer. They can be closed manually in four-and-a-half minutes, he said.

The last time the doors were closed, real-world, was as a shelter-in-place measure on Sept. 11, 2001. 

During "button-up" configuration, air is directed into rooms containing chemical, biological and radiological filters that remove contaminates so there is no requirement for gas masks or protective clothing, Lieutenant Crepeau said. 

"We routinely practice for contingency operations to include portions of our 'button-up' capability," said Lt. Col. Philip Platt, 721st MSG deputy commander. "The process includes everyone from the Cheyenne Mountain command director and North American Aerospace Defense and U.S. Northern Command Headquarters to the 21st Medical Group and all elements of the 721st Mission Support Group." 

Once the decision to close the doors is made, the 721st MSG commander notifies appropriate mission-essential military, civilian and contractor personnel to prepare and execute the "button-up" procedures. The men and women responsible demonstrated this task perfectly as part of the ORI, according to the colonel. 

"We were prepared well ahead of time and were able to overcome severe weather to meet the inspector general's objectives," Colonel Platt said. "Our emergency services personnel quickly responded to 'events' within the mountain and took control of all exercise situations whether they were security, fire or medical-related." 

The command-and-control staff performed at a top-notch level as well, he said.

"The emergency operations center directed all actions to prepare and implement the 'button-up,'" the colonel said. "We were able to flawlessly complete the task."