The Joint Air Defense Operation Center (JADOC) held a ceremony to transfer authority from one Army National Guard command and control element to another Dec. 3rd at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB).
Military dignitaries and civilians from the federal and private sector observed the exchange of command and control for the critical mission of safeguarding the skies above the nation’s capital.
Brig. Gen. David Hicks and Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Sheriff, each representing senior commanders with operational and administrative ties to the mission, were present to oversee the transfer of authority which marked the 15th rotation of the mission. The ceremony takes place annually at JBAB’s Bolling Club.
With the use of state-of-the-art throughout the National Capital Region, and the help of various mission partners, a task force comprising the National Capital Region Integrated Air Defense System (NCR-IADS), rotates in annually to assume around-the-clock responsibility for the capital’s air defense.
JADOC is part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), homeland air defense enterprise manned by the U.S. and Canada that defends the airways above the continent of North America.
This mission is performed by National Guard Soldiers and Airmen from Florida, Mississippi, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, the District of Columbia as well as the U.S. Coast Guard.
Col. Larry M. Pinkerton, Jr., commander of Task Force Luzon, from 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade in Columbus, Ohio turned over the mission his team successfully managed over the past year.
Col. Michael J. Perry, commander of Task Force Archangel, from 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Orlando, Florida relieved Pinkerton and the 174th. During the ceremony, Pinkerton discussed the United States’ unique approach to air defense.
"[In] other countries if you violate air space, it’s …‘if it flies it dies’. We don't do that. We’re a free country. We allow commerce,” said Pinkerton - “We allow commercial aircraft, general aviation, and yet we filter out bad guys, those that do us harm. It is very, very complex and we do it continuously. That's not easy stuff to do and we have men and women that do it every day - 24/7, 365.”
Perry said he is confident in his team’s ability to continue that mission.
“My confidence in the readiness of this unit is as high as it possibly could get. These are the most trained and ready air defenders in the world. This is the most ready unit out there,” exclaimed Perry. “We are blessed with experienced soldiers that have been on this mission before. Close to 60 percent of my command and control element have served [this] mission two or more times.”
During the ceremony, Perry acknowledged one key to his unit’s success over the next year will lie with mission partnerships.
“We are not here by ourselves. We are simply the command and control element over a much larger enterprise that includes Army battalions, Air Force detachments, elements of the Coast Guard, elements of interagency [partners] and law-enforcement,” he stated. “It is such a tremendous enterprise.”
The transition of the unit - from initial notification of recall to active duty - to its mobilization - training processes to arriving at JBAB - is a yearlong process.
One of the responsibilities of the current standing task force is to ensure that there is another trained and ready unit coming forth to assume the mission at the end of its tour. Preparing the new unit takes place while sustaining current air defense operations.
Pinkerton and Task Force Luzon were on hand to help the incoming prepare for rotation.
“The soldiers that come in, they're ready and they're very well trained, but there are a lot of nuances to the mission,” Pinkerton shared. “An incoming unit spends so much time doing the things they need to meet the Army’s requirements to mobilize. We help with that process, but we also help integrate them on stuff that they can't be exposed to before they mobilize. We provide that. In the midst of that we still need to do our job. The enterprise never takes the day off.”
In preparation for their commanding role, each brigade headquarters has a mission command that replicates what is done at JADOC.
“They get ‘stick time’ running simulations very similar to what we do here,” said Pinkerton. “They spend a lot of time on the drill weekends and working those processes."
Stick time, also known as ‘driving time,’ is a chance for the unit to practice their roles at their home station in a simulated environment with battle command systems.
Despite a considerable investment of time and resources spent training new units, Perry emphasized the need to rotate annually instead of just leaving one dedicated unit in charge.
“The importance of this mission is absolutely critical. One thing we cannot let happen is complacency,” stressed Perry. “We are always looking and striving to improve the mission, the equipment, and ensure that there's no complacency anywhere within this organization or this enterprise. By rotating units among three different states that control the ‘command and control’ elements, it keeps that freshness. It keeps ‘trained and ready’ forces throughout the United States and avoids the detriment of complacency that can happen if a unit is stuck in a place for a long period of time."
Lt. Col. Kyle Paul, a mission partner and commanding officer in the Canadian Detachment attended the ceremony. Paul works on the bi-national effort between Canada and the U.S. to monitor and protect the skies over the continent of North America, known as North American Air Defense Command (NORAD). Paul is based in another air defense region called the Eastern Air Defense Sector in Rome, New York.
Paul came to the ceremony as testament to Canada’s vested interest in this mission.
“I think the threat is ever present across North America. It is just a matter of what we are willing to do to be able to react to the threat,” he explained. “So we looked to see how we could get Canadians operationally employed on the JADOC floor along with the Army. We now have two people operationally trained in that mission.”
Along with Paul were hundreds of other military and civilian mission partners congratulating Perry and his task force on their upcoming mission.
As Pinkerton bid farewell to those colleagues he has grown close over the last year, he value their undying commitment to the mission.
“That's the thing I take away their relentless unceasing dedication and drive," said Pinkerton.