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Warfighters sharpen homeland defense skills in two-week event

Colonel Mike Beale (left), Contingency Action Team director, discusses exercise scenario responses with a CAT team member as Mr. Wayne Taylor (top right), and Maj. Dave Leard (bottom right), work civil support issues here during exercise Vigilant Shield 07 (Photo illustration by Mike Strickler)

Colonel Mike Beale (left), Contingency Action Team director, discusses exercise scenario responses with a CAT team member as Mr. Wayne Taylor (top right), and Maj. Dave Leard (bottom right), work civil support issues here during exercise Vigilant Shield 07 (Photo illustration by Mike Strickler)

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Since Monday the Continental U.S. NORAD Region here has dealt with a major aircraft accident involving nuclear weapons, worked to intercept foreign aircraft penetrating U.S. airspace, dealt with a murder-suicide, and monitored deteriorating world events that are teetering North America on the brink of nuclear war.

And you think you're having a bad week?

Through Dec. 14 warfighters assigned to Air Forces Northern and CONR are honing the skills needed to respond to such threats during Vigilant Shield 07.
An annual homeland defense exercise sponsored by the North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command, Vigilant Shield tests the synchronization of the three commands in responding to complex scenarios that challenge the homeland defense matrix in the U.S. and Canada.

According to Col. Mike Beale, Contingency Action Team director for VS07, the two-week exercise challenges the joint team's ability to respond to asymmetric, around-the-clock attacks to better practice crucial warfighting skills.

"I've worked on many staffs in my 25 years of service and this is one of the most challenging and rewarding assignments I've been associated with," said Col. Beale. "The U.S. and North America are becoming increasingly hardened targets for any adversary, and our homeland defense is comprehensive, sophisticated and effective, but only because we train the way we fight, and that's what we're doing right now."

Vigilant Shield scenarios are challenging USNORTHCOM's command and control matrix and their ability to provide defense support to the nation during a potential limited ballistic missile attack and maritime domain threat. The Colorado Springs-based command is also exercising its role in supporting a lead agency in response to a simulated nuclear weapons accident.

At the national level VS07 engages all military services, including Canadian forces in the U.S. and at the Canadian, Alaskan and U.S. NORAD regions. Governmental agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Energy, are working in conjunction with the State of Arizona and the city of Tucson, Ariz., to improve interagency cooperation while cementing relationships between local, state and federal agencies in response to real-world incidents.

"Exercises like this help us protect Americans where they work and live," said Col Beale. "Working with our sister services and national responders fosters the interagency cooperation that is so vital to ensuring homeland security."