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23 SOPS personnel overcome hurricane

Part of the 21st Space Operations Squadron’s Eastern Vehicle Checkout Facility stands on a clear day at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The EVCF faced much more turbulent weather when Hurricane Matthew careened up the Florida coastline early this October. The EVCF is part of the 23rd Space Operations Squadron, a geographically separated unit for Schriever.  (Courtesy Photo)

Part of the 21st Space Operations Squadron’s Eastern Vehicle Checkout Facility stands on a clear day at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The EVCF faced much more turbulent weather when Hurricane Matthew careened up the Florida coastline early this October. The EVCF is part of the 23rd Space Operations Squadron, a geographically separated unit for Schriever. (Courtesy Photo)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.-- --

Contractors stationed at the 23rd Space Operations Squadron’s Eastern Vehicle Checkout Facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida, were among the many people who felt the presence of Hurricane Matthew when it careened through the Florida coastline earlier this month.

One of Schriever’s geographically separated units, 23 SOPS and its EVCF faced a storm that brought turbulent weather conditions along the U.S. east coast. Matthew, which reached its peak intensity Sept.30-Oct.1 as a Category 5 hurricane with 160 mph winds, had already caused widespread devastation in the eastern Caribbean before turning towards Florida.

It was a concern for leadership at 23 SOPS, whose EVCF personnel was in the hurricane’s path.

“My concern was foremost for the people stationed there,” said Lt. Col. Marty Easter, 23 SOPS commander. “We can always make sure the mission is offloaded, and facility delayed. It was their safety that was imperative.”

Fortunately, facility personnel were aware of the danger long before due to notifications sent through nearby Patrick Air Force Base at Cape Canaveral.

“The warning system gave them time to protect their equipment and evacuate,” said Easter. “It proved to be highly efficient.”

Thanks to the advanced notice, facility personnel were well-prepared to deal with the threat.

“We had a checklist we followed, including making sure everything outside is picked up and shutting down and covering equipment with plastic,” said James Cobb, EVCF lead contractor.

These procedures minimalized damages, and apart from a few broken latches to an antenna hatch, the facility remained unscathed, with operations resuming shortly after the storm passed, said Cobb.

 

Despite the preparations, Matthew still brought havoc to the Cape Canaveral area, bringing winds of up to 107 mph and heavy flooding, according to the Weather Channel’s website.

“I lived in an area and had to evacuate to my daughter's home in Orlando,” said Cobb. “It was a tense experience, the worst storm in this area for a long time-we (EVCF personnel) were all lucky no one was hurt.”

 

The facility is tasked with ensuring Air Force Satellite Control Network capabilities and satellite operations stay intact prior to and during launch. They are one of three AFSCN sites supported by 23 SOPS, headquartered at New Boston Air Force Station, New Hampshire.

 

“The EVCF mission is critically important,” said Easter. “They ensure our satellite’s get in orbit. If their mission is put on hold, so is ours.”

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