U.S. Air Force conducts training mission on Grayrocks Reservoir

One day this summer, Laramie River Station Plant Manager Levi Mickelsen received an unusual phone call. “I got this call out of the blue from Kansas City,” he says. “The Air Force was putting together their regional week-long training, and needed a body of water to do one of the missions on.”

Mickelsen says the Air Force wanted to simulate a downed aircraft in a body of water, and another plane needed to drop rescue supplies. A C-130 Hercules aircraft would fly about 300 feet above the water’s surface and drop 200 and 300 pound kits containing life rafts, emergency radios, and medical gear. under different scenarios. “They had been trying to find a place to train for four months, and hadn’t had luck,” Mickelsen says. “The advantage with Grayrocks Reservoir is it is privately owned (by Missouri Basin Power Project, the same group that owns Laramie River Station), and it’s open to the public.”

Mickelsen worked with an Air Force representative to make sure there was no disruption to the plant. “I gave them a map and explained where the pump house and dam are located, so they knew where to stay away from,” he says. “They didn’t want us to tell too many people what was going to happen, or the day or time, because they have had trouble in the past with word getting around and a crowd of people showing up just to watch.”

The training was set for 1 p.m. on Sept. 14. An Air Force crew of three set up a buoy in the water, and waited nearby in a boat. “They did two types of drops: a rescue mission for five or fewer people, and a mission for more than 20 people. Depending on wind speed and direction changes how they would fly over and drop the kits. Depending on the type of kit they were dropping would depend on whether it would drift toward or away from the target, so they simulated multiple scenarios,” Mickelsen says. “They flew over four times: east to west, south to north, north to south, and west to east. It took less than a half hour.”

Mickelsen says he invited just a few employees out to watch, and they got some video. “The representative from the Air Force thanked me for allowing them to use Grayrocks for this, and I said ‘it’s the least we can do for all you do to protect our beautiful country,’” he says.