Joint mission showcased on Army’s birthday

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jacob Morgan
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing
On June 14, 2013, the U.S. Army's 238th birthday, members of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing were shown exactly what it takes to keep two Patriot missile sites running during a tour of the site here. Twenty-four-seven operations and drop-of-a-hat readiness are just a few features of the 1st Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment whose mission affecting all service members in the region.

The mission of the 1-62 ADA BN, which is heavily integrated with the Air Force and Navy, is to defend against tactical ballistic missiles, or short to medium range missiles, by engaging them in the air.

"We all work together. This is a no-fail, one-team, one-fight mission," said U.S. Army Spc. Thomas Elo, air defense artillery fire control assistant with the 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Fort Hood, Texas, currently attached to the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron here. "It doesn't matter what uniform we wear. We see the same things and communicate with each other well."

The joint mission starts with shared radar feed. The 1-62 ADA BN, while in non-alert status, shares a radar system controlled and operated by the 727th EACS. The system can scan up to 200 nautical miles in diameter and up to 99,000 ft. to look for unidentified tracks of flying objects. The 1-62 ADA BN and 727th EACS are constantly monitoring the airspace in the region and work hand-in-hand passing information back and forth. This information flow also goes through the E-3 Sentry and can be passed on to any of the 380th AEW aircraft in the region.

When it comes to detection and tracking of enemy and friendly targets, both the Sentry and the 1-62 ADA BN contribute to the Air Defense System, said Lt. Col. Chauncey Houston, 380th AEW chief of safety and a Sentry pilot with 14 years of experience.

"My most unique experience with the Patriot missile guys came during Operation Iraqi Freedom - I gained a tremendous amount of respect for and fear of this system," said Houston.

Without his defensive system operable and the possibility of enemy fire, Houston was forced to divert to a safe zone. After considering the location of a Patriot missile site for protection, he knew where to land.

"In emergency situations, the locations and operation of a Patriot missile site is always a top five consideration," said Houston. "They provide a layer of protection that is unprecedented."

Houston, who went on the tour of the 1-62 ADA BN's Patriot missile site during the Army's birthday, said he feels very comfortable here because of the professionalism, training, teamwork and protection the unit provides to the 380th AEW.

The 1-62 ADA BN's protection level of the 380th AEW is driven their state of readiness, decided by higher headquarters. In steady-state, or non-alert status, they maintain two Patriot Missile sites and train at least half of each day to operate them.

Their mission encompasses five specialties split between operating in a tactical operations center and the field; they include: Patriot fire control enhanced operator/maintainer, Patriot launcher station enhanced operator/maintainer, early warning systems operator, tactical control officer, and tactical control assistant.

The 1-62 ADA BN receives direction from the air defense artillery fire control officer attached to the 727th EACS. Higher headquarters assesses the target and the fire control officer tells the 1-62 ADA BN where to find it.

"We spend most of the day training to be ready to go when we are called," said 1st Lt. Thomas Bentley, 1-62 ADA BN tactical director. "We are always ready to go when the air control squadron tells us what, when and where we are engaging."

The Patriot missiles, which are defensive in nature, can shoot down surface-to-surface and some air-to-surface missiles protecting aircraft, personnel and radars on the ground.

"It's great being here, we are all on the same communication level," said Elo. "It's amazing to feel like part of the team contributing to a larger mission."