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America's Airmen...on the watch

  • Published
  • By Lt. Gen. Sid Clarke
  • Continental US North American Aerospace Defense Command Region and 1st Air Force commander
With 2013 just beginning, I couldn't help but reflect on the tremendous effort the CONR-1AF team put forth over the last year. While I pondered, I realized that many of you at Tyndall may not know anything about this tremendous organization. I'll do my best to fill you in.

As commander of the Continental Region U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command, I have had the distinct opportunity to work alongside my Canadian counterparts in an ongoing effort preserving peace and defending the skies over North America. First Air Force is one of three numbered Air Forces under Air Combat Command. We present forces, as Air Forces Northern, to fulfill our responsibilities to United States Northern Command. Our CONR-1AF organization is a tenant unit on Tyndall that has been assigned a multitude of missions. As the Joint Force Air Component commander for U.S. Norhtern Cammand, I know first-hand the tremendous amount of hard work that goes into defending the homeland while making certain that robust defense support of civil authorities and theater security cooperation efforts are well established and preserved.

One of the most important mission sets we have is providing excellent command and control. We do this with a talented staff located in the Killey Center for Homeland Operations and with the 601st Air Operations Center both located at Tyndall. Our air defense sectors are located at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash. and in Rome, N.Y. We also operationally control the integrated air and defense system over the national capitol region.

On a daily basis, CONR-1AF ensures the air sovereignty over the Continental U.S. and protects America's critical infrastructure and our nation's leadership to include the President of the United States from symmetric and asymmetric threats. With weekly air taskings numbering well into the hundreds, this organization consistently provides command and control to over 16 aerospace control alert fixed sites dispersed throughout the U.S. in support of our CONR and Operation Noble Eagle missions. With a twenty-four-hour-a-day, three hundred sixty-five day a year operation, CONR-1AF is especially busy under normal circumstances. This year, however, was even more so given the presidential election period and several associated national special security events requiring our support. When the president traveled during the election season, this organization ensured he was protected, defending the skies from would be aggressors. The list of National Special Security Events requiring air support this year was quite extensive and included the G-8, NATO and G-20 Summits, the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, and the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The Presidential Inauguration, State of the Union Address and Super Bowl are additional events that CONR-1AF is already fully engaged and planning for in early 2013.

In addition to our core mission sets, DSCA and theater security cooperation also played unique roles in rounding out our missions assigned in 2012. This past year a number of wildfires had a significant impact on America's western communities. As part of our DSCA response, CONR-1AF ensured that a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System onboard C-130 aircraft was ready to support the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forestry Service when the Defense Department was called upon to help. Additionally, CONR-1AF was also instrumental in our nation's disaster relief efforts throughout the hurricane season. The quick work of this organization was critical to the post-storm recovery efforts, and in particular, following Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy. The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center rounds out our DSCA response capability and was especially impressive this year. For those of you that don't know, the AFRCC provides life-saving search and rescue coordination throughout the U.S. helping to locate, with the help of Civil Air Patrol and others, lost hikers, children and other distressed civilians. In 2012, the AFRCC responded to more than 6,216 incidents with 748 missions resulting in a remarkable 164 American lives saved.

In 2012, we continued to develop long term partnerships with some of our closest neighbors. The parallel missions under NORAD have helped strengthen the U.S.-Canadian alliance and demonstrated to the world the type of theater security cooperation that can be achieved through aligned collaborative efforts. Mexico and the U.S. continue to cooperate against terrorists and transnational criminal organizations, adversaries that work to tear at the very fabric of the freedoms our countries fight to preserve. I am confident the robust US-Mexican collaboration I observed this past year will continue to build and in the end, our combined efforts will help defeat our common enemies. CONR/AFNORTH has extensive partnerships with the U.S. interagency community as well, which consists of well over fifty national organizations.

This is just but a small description of the remarkable missions CONR-1AF consistently accomplishes to protect and support America. Hopefully, this gives you a greater appreciation for the tremendous effort the CONR-1AF team has put forth over this past year, and will continue to do well into the future. For these reasons and more we are, "America's Airmen...On the Watch."