HAFB Contingency Response Force ready for Discovery landing

Staff Sgt. Christopher Seeley prepares his gear before the shuttle convoy from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., heads out to the alternate landing site Dec. 22 to support the possible landing there of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Airmen from Holloman are ready to support all NASA missions by training numerous times a year for such an event.  Sergeant Seeley is assigned to the 49th Civil Engineer Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Heather Stanton)

Staff Sgt. Christopher Seeley prepares his gear before the shuttle convoy from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., heads out to the alternate landing site Dec. 22 to support the possible landing there of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Airmen from Holloman are ready to support all NASA missions by training numerous times a year for such an event. Sergeant Seeley is assigned to the 49th Civil Engineer Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Heather Stanton)

Airmen from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., prepare to convoy to the alternate landing site Dec. 22 in support of the possible landing there of the Space Shuttle Discovery.  The shuttle was able to land safely at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., however, bringing the shuttle's mission to a successful end.  Airmen from Holloman are ready to support all NASA missions by training numerous times a year for such an event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Michael Means)

Airmen from Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., prepare to convoy to the alternate landing site Dec. 22 in support of the possible landing there of the Space Shuttle Discovery. The shuttle was able to land safely at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., however, bringing the shuttle's mission to a successful end. Airmen from Holloman are ready to support all NASA missions by training numerous times a year for such an event. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Michael Means)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Space Shuttle Discovery landed safely at 5:32 p.m. Eastern Standard Time at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., bringing the shuttle's mission to a successful end, and though it did not land at White Sands Missile Range, the emergency response team from Holloman stood ready to launch into action.

"Whether the shuttle lands or not, we've had a successful day," said Col. Mark Engeman, 49th Mission Support Group commander and the Department of Defense on-scene commander for the Contingency Response Force. "This is a great chance for us to do something we've trained for a lot."

Though the shuttle has only landed at White Sands once, in 1982, the members of the CRF are no strangers to the hard work of preparing for a landing.

The CRF, made up of people from various emergency response agencies on base, work with White Sands emergency responders and NASA to provide immediate support should the shuttle have to land.

"It feels good to actually do what we're trained to do instead of training in a classroom setting or having exercises," said Master Sgt. Charles Robertson, 49th Civil Engineer Squadron Fire Department assistant chief of operations.

Sergeant Robertson, whose job it is to provide standby services for emergency medical technicians, said they treat every potential landing as if it were the real thing.

"I volunteered for the CRF because I wanted to be part of the team," he said. "This is a great team, we're ready to go out there and do what is asked of us. We're excited and looking forward to this afternoon either way."

Sergeant Robertson wasn't the only volunteer looking forward to the "real thing."
Mr. Allen Dalton, crew chief for fire station two and a 23-year veteran of the CRF remembers being around for the excitement of the last landing in 1982 and said he's trained at Edwards Air Base, Calif., Houston and Florida and it's good to be able to put the training to use.

The colonel's message for the day was to stay calm, stay focused on the mission and get the job done and members of the medical members of the CRF stood ready to do just that.

"We've already made arrangements with civilian medical facilities should members of the crew need advanced medical treatment," said Lt. Col. Todd Baker, 49th Medical Group on scene commander.

We're here to provide that extra level of security should something happen and we'll stay on the scene to provide care as long as needed, he said.

Though the CRF convenes and stands ready to spring into action anytime the shuttle launches and lands, this time there was a bit more excitement in the air due to weather forecasts at the primary landing location and, according to Colonel Engeman, NASA officials were pleased with the amount of support from the Holloman and White Sands emergency response teams.

"We were prepared ... all the forces were ready to go," said Mr. Phillip Goss, 49th CES. The support was great and everyone really came together. Maybe next time we'll get to see more."