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First Air Force, AFNORTH, CONR multi-tasks

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Linda E. Welz
  • 1AF/AFNORTH Public Affairs
The past few months have chronicled tragic events in Minnesota and Utah, a category five hurricane, and two successful space shuttle launches and landings. First Air Force, Air Forces Northern Command (AFNORTH) and Continental US NORAD Region (CONR) assets were there. 

The triple-hatted command is tasked to provide air defense for space shuttle launches and landings, and prepared to deploy for defense support of civil authorities at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
These responsibilities are just some of the many missions, and are in addition to CONR's primary 24/7, 365 mission of protecting the homeland by patrolling the skies, demonstrated by the recent monitoring and intercepting of Russian Air Force long-range bomber flight activity near Alaska. 

Thankfully not yet needed for hurricane relief efforts, AFNORTH and 1st Air Force remain proactive.  They deployed Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officers (EPLOs) to various locations to support the primary federal agency and other responding agencies with relief and recovery efforts in case the communities needed help during Hurricane Dean.
First Air Force and AFNORTH has also been involved with local community officials through the logistics of transporting Navy divers and their equipment to Minneapolis shortly after the bridge collapse, and rescue crews to help at Utah's Crandall Canyon coal mine.
"First Air Force, AFNORTH and CONR are committed to building positive relationships with the communities surrounding our bases. Our Guardsmen and their families are integral parts of the community. We take every opportunity to show we are good neighbors and will continue to be a positive force in those communities," said Maj. Gen. Hank Morrow, 1st AF/AFNORTH/CONR commander.
The multi-role command has recently begun building those relationships with a new community in Florida. 

The Joint Task Force Shuttle (JTF) mission is fairly new for the command. To ensure safe airspace and security for the shuttle launch, the command flies air defense and deterrence missions and combat air patrol around Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to enforce the Federal Aviation Administration's temporary flight restriction zone. The sorties remain on station until NASA directs the shuttle astronauts to go for orbit operations. 

Joint Task Force Shuttle is made up of 1AF/AFNORTH/CONR personnel who are there to coordinate rescue and recovery of the astronauts and recovery of the orbiter should it be required at KSC. 

In support of NASA, JTFS provides Launch Abort Landing Sites (bases that lie near the shuttle' s intended flight path), DOD Emergency Landing Sites (facilities strategically located around the world in the shuttle' s flight path, with runways long enough for the orbiter and with compatible navigation aids), and Alternate DOD-Augmented Landing Sites at Edwards AFB, Calif., and Holloman AFB/White Sands Space Harbor, N.M., which can be quickly readied to support a shuttle landing with an on-scene commander, fire/crash/rescue forces, and medical evacuation capabilities. 

With job descriptions including support of future shuttle operations, and supporting local communities during times of crisis or disasters included in its resume, 1st Air Force and AFNORTH will not be deterred from its primary mission of homeland defense. 

"The airmen in my command take their job of homeland defense very seriously. In protecting this great land, they ensure your families and theirs will have a free nation in which to live peacefully and unafraid, said Maj. Gen. Morrow.
"There's no better feeling than that mission accomplished on a daily basis."