No power, no problem: preparing for the unexpected

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ariel O'Shea
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

As part of a Department of the Air Force initiative to ensure base operations remain smooth despite a power outage, an Energy Resilience Readiness Exercise (ERRE) took place here April 5, 2023.

An ERRE verifies backup generator preparedness and confirms the continued high performance of energy, water and communication capability during a power outage. The exercise intentionally cuts incoming commercial power for more than eight hours. The affected base is then expected to continue operations as it would in the event of an unexpected outage.

“The national security strategy talks about the People’s Republic of China being our primary pacing challenge, and they have the capabilities for a cyber or kinetic attack,” said Charlie Rimbach, Headquarters Air Force A4C ERRE co-lead. “Because of the mission set and its high value to the Department of Defense, Creech is one of the most critical facilities that protect the homeland.”

There are four phases of execution in an ERRE: design, develop, conduct and evaluate. The date for the third phase was deliberately kept secret—base personnel were not aware that it was happening until they arrived at work.

“If everybody knew that there was going to be a power outage on a specific day, there could be some wargaming,” Rimbach said. “Units could preplan things and practice how they would respond to the situation in advance. That’s not what we want, because it wouldn’t give us accurate information. This is not a pass-fail situation. We are gathering data.”

In this age of reliance on technology, with Creech relying mainly on communications equipment to pilot aircraft remotely, the ERRE confirmed that cutting commercial power doesn’t halt the mission.

“Over the last few years, the 432nd Support Squadron has worked with various Creech AFB mission partners, Department of Defense agencies and commercial utility providers to ensure our installation is resilient to as many infrastructure threats as possible,” said Lt. Col. Eric Kellogg, 432nd Support Squadron commander.

With the help of those agencies, he said, Creech has been retrofitted with redundant power and HVAC technologies, communications network paths have been increased, and preventative maintenance actions have been adjusted to exceed Air Force standards. Off base, commercial utility providers have worked to harden their transmission lines and continue to increase redundancies to their delivery methods to the base.

“All of these efforts are to ensure the risk to mission impact from any outage is mitigated as best as possible,” said Kellogg. “The ERRE was another great test of the resiliency efforts implemented across Creech to ensure we can continue to weather any issue.”

Creech is one of only five Air Force bases that will conduct an ERRE for Fiscal Year 2023. The sixth will be at a joint base. Other branches of the military will also have ERREs, as mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The NDAA calls for each branch to schedule and execute ERREs through Fiscal Year 2027 as part of a total force initiative.