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Mississippi Guardsmen key in homeland defense exercise

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Dusty Culpepper
  • 286 th Air Component Operation Squadron Public Affairs
Forty four Mississippi Air National Guardsmen from Meridian, Miss., played a key role last week in support of Continental U.S. NORAD Region-1st Air Force's (Air Forces Northern) role in Vigilant Shield, as part of an annual exercise held at Tyndall AFB. 

The Guardsmen of the 286th Air Component Operation Squadron, a tenant unit of the 186th Air Refueling Wing at Key Field, Mississippi augmented personnel in logistics, intelligence, communications, operations and other areas during the 10-day exercise that responds to a direct threat against North America.

The mission of the 286th ACOS is to augment CONR in its homeland defense mission, including responding to potential events, while AFNORTH, U.S. Northern Command's air component, supports local, state, regional and federal emergency service agencies in the event of man-made and natural disasters when tasked.

"We had all directorates as well as personal staff represented this year, such as civil engineers, personnel specialist and a chaplain," said Col. Larry Griffin, 286th ACOS commander.  "One of the things we contribute is continuity to the staff that is already in place at AFNORTH." He said this was the squadron's fifth year supporting Vigilant Shield. 

"The more experience we gain, the more valuable we become to the overall mission" Griffin said.

AFNORTH Commander Lt. Gen. William H. Etter agrees that Meridian's contribution is key to mission accomplishment.

"We are pleased to have the men and women of the 286th working alongside us during this important exercise," Etter said.  "We know we can count on Meridian for critical support of our no-fail homeland defense mission."

Shawn Davis, acting logistics division chief, said one of the keys to this readiness is the Meridian mentor program. He explained the program enables Airmen to deploy and be fully functional from day one, which offers a real advantage when it comes to mission success.

"This program has been going on for three years, and because of it, we are able to fill primary tasks used to function immediately," Davis said. 

Director of Logistics Col. John Smith at AFNORTH agreed having the 286th available gives them the ability to be a true force multiplier.   

"It enhances our ability to support the Combined Forces Air Component Commander and enables us to meet all mission requirements," Smith said.

Smith said the most important thing is that the squadron comes in with mission accomplishment in mind. 

"They come in with a great attitude, a sense of belonging and want to make a difference, which makes things so much easier," Smith said.