By Tank Murdoch @TheNatSent
(TNS) Last week, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Northern Command (NORTHCOM) held a Facebook Live town hall meeting to inform the country their essential teams assigned to handle the burgeoning coronavirus pandemic were isolating at the Cheyenne Mountain bunker in Colorado.
During the March 24 briefing, Air Force General Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of both NORAD and NORTHCOM, informed reporters during the Facebook Live briefing that essential personnel were already in the process of moving from Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado to the underground bunker complex that is 24 miles away in Cheyenne Mountain.
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Cheyenne Mountain was built during the Cold War; it is 2,000 feet underground and thought capable of surviving a direct hit from a 30 megaton nuclear warhead.
“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,” he said.
“It’s certainly not optimal, but it’s absolutely necessary and appropriate given the situation,” he added.
According to The Drive, NORAD and NORTHCOM personnel already occupied some 30 percent of the underground bunker complex.
O’Shaughnessy said with the increased personnel, his “primary concern was … are we going to have the space inside the mountain for everybody who wants to move in there, and I’m not at liberty to discuss who’s moving in there.”
The Drive noted further that another command-and-control team has been isolated at a third, undisclosed location, adding:
The command took these steps to help ensure these personnel can continue to watch around the clock for potential threats to the U.S. homeland as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to expand across the country and around the world, including within the U.S. military.
The decision to move personnel to Cheyenne Mountain also comes as President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday authorizing the Pentagon to call up to 1 million (at a time) National Guard, reserves and even retired personnel — most of them with medical training and certification — ahead of the virus’ spread.
Also, on Sunday the president extended his earlier “15 days to control the spread” guidelines until April 30, saying that he expected the outbreak to peak within two weeks.
Mind you, the movement to Cheyenne Mountain is likely precautionary. The military has to maintain command-and-control readiness at all times. However, the call-up of Guard and reserve medical personnel is significant because it’s for two years, not just a couple of months.
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