Remembering Windsor: Colo. Guard provides calm presence after devastating storm

  • Published
  • By Air National Guard Master Sgt. Cheresa D. Theiral
  • Colorado National Guard Public Affairs
On May 22, 2008, at 11:26 a.m., an EF3 tornado ripped through Windsor, Colo.

Winds reaching up to 65 mph killed one person destroyed 78 homes in a 39-mile swath of chaos and destruction.

Within two hours of the twister's departure, Colorado National Guardsmen from the 137th Space Warning Squadron (now the 233rd Space Group) in nearby Greeley, Colo., were on the scene providing a security presence and welfare checks.

"The National Guard came and knocked on our door, hours after it happened, checking to make sure everybody was okay," said Windsor resident Justin Wyatt in May 2008.

"The National Guard stepped in and did the checkpoints, checking everybody's ID," said Windsor resident Dave Lane back in May 2008. "It was awesome that they stepped up and did that."

In addition to providing a security presence, 137th Airmen also provided a mobile command center in Windsor, and an emergency operations center in Greeley.

On May 23, 2008, Soldiers from the 147th Brigade Support Battalion from Boulder, Colo., arrived to provide security, under the authority and guidance of local law enforcement.

"I was directing traffic, making sure people weren't getting through that shouldn't be in there," said then-Sgt. Raymon Woolery of the 147th BSB. "Only residents and workers (got through)."

"They're everywhere, like ants," said Windsor resident Lisa Plahuta in 2008. "Having the National Guard here non-stop ... we feel so safe."

Additionally, members and equipment from Colorado's National Guard Communications Element from Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, Colo., arrived in Windsor and provided a centralized communications link for multiple law enforcement and emergency response agencies to connect.

NGCE Airmen ensured several agencies using different radio frequencies could talk to each other through one centralized trunk. Equipment provided by the 137th SWS also allowed interconnectivity of secure data transmissions.

"It was an outstanding mission," said Senior Master Sgt. Frank Vaughn, an NGCE member from the 137th SWS, of the 2008 mission. "Anytime you get to support the local community, that's what the Colorado National Guard is all about."

"Windsor was my first real world mission," said former Staff Sgt. Sandy Manuel, NGCE member from the 140th Communications Flight. "It was pretty thrilling to be part of a joint force operation."

The Colorado National Guard provided a presence in Windsor from May 22-31, 2008.

"The National Guard is top notch," said Windsor resident Dave Lane in 2008. "We really thank each and every one of you guys."

"It was an honor to serve our community in a time-sensitive crisis," said Air National Guard Col. Skip Johnson, who commanded the 137th SWS from 2005 to 2012. "In my 13 years in the Air National Guard, that's one of the things I'm most proud of - directly serving the community in which my own Airmen lived, worked, and raised their families."

In the calm since the storm, the Colorado National Guard has built a new readiness center in Windsor, Colo. The 17-acre facility, which opened for business in October 2012, is the home of approximately 130 Soldiers of the 1157th Forward Support Company of the 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment.

"The addition of the readiness center and the support company not only increases the value of the National Guard to the community, it also enhances our ability to assist in a time of need," said Adjutant General of Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, who commands the Colorado National Guard.

Once brought to the town by a devastating storm, the Colorado National Guard is now a full-time resident. While its Soldiers are always ready to respond in a time of need, their facility is also helping to sustain the local environment.

On May 16, the Windsor Readiness Center achieved a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum certification - the highest LEED rating available - from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Considerations for the certification included the geothermal field adjacent to the building that aid in heating and cooling, photovoltaic cells on the roof for electrical power, natural day lighting, and an overall low energy use index.

"The Windsor Readiness Center is the gateway to a premier energy park in northern Colorado," said Bob Datson, branch chief for design and management for the Colorado Army National Guard. "We'd like this facility to be used in that way, such as a stepping off point for school tours, so that community members can learn how this new technology is developed and implemented."

The facility is one of the first Army National Guard facilities to achieve a LEED Platinum certification.