AFNORTH CC Hosts Commanders Call

Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. -- The First Air Force commander emphasized new responsibilities, a continued focus on homeland defense and an increased tempo heading into the hurricane and fire-fighting season during a Commander's Call held May 4 at Horizons Community Center.

Speaking to a combined gathering of AFNORTH and 601st Air Operations Center personnel, Lt. Gen. William Etter, Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region - 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern) commander, expressed thanks for everyone's accomplishments while challenging them to meet future personal and mission challenges.  Etter highlighted several missions.

"What we do is crystal clear," said Etter. "We defend the airspace on the NORAD side. Deter, detect, dissuade and if necessary we defeat.  This is a busy place and we've flown over 8,000 scrambles since 9-11."

While providing a NORAD mission support overview, Etter offered insight on the unique U.S.-Canadian NORAD relationship that features Canadian Brig. Gen. Alain Pelletier as CONR deputy commander.

"We are the only bi-national command in the world," Etter said. "General Pelletier is not an exchange officer.  He has command responsibility and that makes us different."

Etter also noted management of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, or JLENS, is a new role for AFNORTH.  JLENS features an airship that floats 10,000 feet in the air and carries powerful radars designed to detect airplanes and cruise missiles.

"JLENS will bring a huge protection capability to the NCR (National Capitol Region)," Etter said.  "They put it on top of a balloon and balloons are fragile.  We've got to make sure we watch it and we're creating developmental software and programs for it."

The fast-approaching hurricane season and the likelihood of many western fires caused by drought conditions in the Western United States are sure to task U.S. Northern Command's homeland and civil defense missions this summer, Etter added.

"We need to anticipate the threat and we can't be late," said Etter.  "We're in the business of saving lives and speed counts.  If someone says we 'need you by Sunday,' that doesn't mean that we wait until Sunday to arrive."

The AFNORTH commander and his command chief, Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Anderson, also stressed the importance of individuals doing their professional military education.  They cited recent examples of people rendered ineligible for promotion without that requirement.

"We make sure we stay physically fit to do the mission to the best of our ability," Anderson said.  "Our mental fitness toward the mission is just as critical, and completing our PME ensures that."