U.S. Air Force photo by 1st Lt. Jeff Crepeau
Airman 1st Class Derrick Warfield manually locks a 25-ton blast door at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station during an operational readiness inspection in 2006.
An undisclosed portion of the NORAD/NorthCom contingent at Peterson Air Force Base has moved to the Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station as the COVID-19 virus spreads.
The granite bunker south of Colorado Springs was specifically built, opening in 1967, for the North American Aerospace Defense Command
, a bi-national force with Canada that guards the North American continent. The command linked up with U.S. Northern Command after it was created in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Inside the mountain, the entrance is guarded by two 25-ton blast doors designed to protect against a nuclear explosion. Now, officials hope the doors protect troops from a tiny but deadly microbe that's creeping across the planet.
According to theDrive.com
, Air Force Gen. Terrence O'Shaughnessy, NORAD/NorthCom commander, held a Facebook Live town hall on March 24 during which he announced some personnel would move from Peterson to the mountain to isolate from the virus.
"To ensure that we can defend the homeland despite this pandemic, our command and control watch teams here in the headquarters split into multiple shifts and portions of our watch team began working from Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, creating a third team at an alternate location as well," O'Shaughnessy said.
"Our dedicated professionals of the NORAD and NORTHCOM command and control watch have left their homes, said goodbye to their families and are isolated from everyone to ensure that they can stand the watch each and every day to defend our homeland. It's certainly not optimal, but it's absolutely necessary and appropriate given the situation".
We reached out to NORAD to ask whether O'Shaughnessy himself has relocated into the mountain, how long the tours will last, how many personnel have been relocated and whether they've been tested for the virus before entering to guard against infecting others.
We'll update if and when we hear back.
Meantime, check this link for a complete listing
of how NORAD/NorthCom is assisting in the coronavirus response.
NORAD/NorthCom moved out of the mountain for the most part in 2006 to Peterson, leaving skeleton crews to keep the command center on "warm standby." But in 2015, key functions were restored inside the mountain.