North America’s mountain fortress hosts film crew

By Lt. (RCN) Al Blondin NORAD Public Affairs


PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Located within the center of a solid granite mountain in an excavated area larger than four football fields and almost seven stories high, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station hosts one of the most secure military facilities on the continent. Yet, it showed itself capable of typical warm Colorado hospitality recently, opening its meter-thick, Cold War-era, 25-ton blast doors to special visitors charged with a unique mission – capture and tell a fascinating story.

North American Aerospace Defense Command and 721st Mission Support Group personnel hosted and supported a Partisan Pictures producer and crew during the second week of April who witnessed and captured rare footage for a documentary project featuring Cheyenne Mountain AFS. In addition to the unique facilities, Partisan Pictures filmed a multi-threat, non-classified exercise within the highly restricted and secure NORAD and U.S. Northern Command Alternate Command Center.

Partisan Pictures producer Jonathan Grupper was thrilled with the footage collected and the support he received.

“It took an extraordinary effort for NORAD and NORTHCOM personnel and 721st MSG to grant Partisan Pictures access to Cheyenne Mountain,” he said. “As appreciative as I am for that, I’m all the more grateful for the service they’re providing our country. Now, with our documentary, a wide audience will also have that privilege. Few have witnessed NORAD and USNORTHCOM’s highly classified ACC in action, let alone visitors with my, and my crew’s, level of clearance. What the audience will experience is a team of true professionals who are primed to protect North America against any threat, with uncanny calm, expertise and ability.”

The multi-threat scenario filmed in the ACC during the exercise featured many of the areas of concern NORAD and USNORTHCOM’s missions focus on, such as air, maritime, cyber and space domain threats. The documentary, details of which are not releasable at this time, is tentatively scheduled to air in late 2012.

U.S Air Force Col. Michael Alford, Command Center director during the exercise, was grateful for his part in the venture.

“Participating in this initiative was a very rewarding experience for me. The Command Center crew and CMAFS personnel did an outstanding job supporting this project, and it was a pleasure working with the professionals from Partisan Pictures as well and seeing all the planning and work that goes into producing a documentary.”

Alford also reflected on the fact that, while working with producer Jonathan Grupper, he gained a new perspective of how those not familiar with NORAD’s mission and operations view the organization and perceive the actual work they do.

“This project was a great opportunity for the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Command Center to showcase its mission and provide a glimpse of our operations to those we support and defend 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, 365 days-a-year,” he said.

Royal Canadian Air Force Lieutenant-Colonel Joe Barry, NORAD Chief of Operations at CMAFS, was a key player in facilitating all of the details and acting as liaison between the 721st MSG, who act as landlords of the mountain facility, and NORAD and USNORTHCOM, one of its tenants.

“It was a pleasure working with Partisan Pictures,” he said. “They understood and respected the restraints on what we could show and say. At the same time, we learned from them about how we can better explain our mission to the people we are sworn to serve and protect, the American and Canadian public.

CMAFS and the ACC feature a synthesis of Cold War engineering and 21st Century technology that are still relevant in a constantly evolving world. The ACC provides additional levels of redundancy and security that allow for continued operations for the people who have the watch protecting North America from all potential threats and disasters, whether man-made or natural.

NORAD and USNORTHCOM day-to-day operations normally take place in the main operations center located within the headquarters building at nearby Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. The two commands operate together under the leadership of a single commander. NORAD is a bi-national - Canada and U.S. - command charged with conducting aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning in the defense of North America. USNORTHCOM’s mission is to partner in order to conduct homeland defense, civil support and security cooperation to defend and secure the United States and its interests.