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Riki Ellison standing in front of the St. Francis barracks, Florida National Guard Joint Force Headquarters St. Augustine, Florida, December 3, 2022.

In 1565, Spanish Conquistador Pedro Menéndez de Avilés made history by founding the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in what we now know as the United States, the city of Saint Augustine, Florida, 42 years prior to Jamestown being founded in 1607. A company of citizen-soldiers was created to defend and protect Saint Augustine, giving birth to the oldest National Guard company in the history of the United States. 

For 457 years, Florida’s National Guard has kept Floridians protected from hurricanes, floods, forest fires, destabilizing actions to the state, and other threats to the US homeland from the South East. The first expedition in Florida was led by General Andrew Jackson, who invaded the Spanish Capital of Pensacola during the War of 1812, and was a key figure in ending the Spanish control over Florida. The General also led an expedition to Florida during the First Seminole War in 1818, taking control over most of what was then known as West Florida. After the signing of the Adams-Onís Treaty, in 1819, the Spanish ceded the ownership of Florida to the US in 1821, and President James Monroe appointed Andrew Jackson Governor of the state for his victory after the war. The city of Jacksonville was founded in 1832 in his honor.  

The headquarters of the Florida National Guard is located at its birthplace in Saint Augustine, at the Saint Francis Barracks. Today the Florida National Guard has 12,000 members. Of these, around 10,000 are in the Army National Guard with 1,400 of the 10,000 soldiers being in the 1st and 3rd ADA battalions of the 265th regiment within the 164th ADA Brigade and 211th Infantry Regiment for Training. They are the most concentrated NG Army ADA in the 54 states and territories with 2 Battalions and a Training Regiment for the National Capital Region mission and other directed requirements. The National Capital Region (NCR) mission has deployed rotations from 5 states of 7 ADA battalions:

  • Ohio has two with the 1st ADA battalion of the 174th regiment based at Cincinnati and their 2nd battalion based at McConnelsville.
  • North Dakota has the 1st ADA battalion of the 188th regiment based at Grand Forks.
  • Mississippi has the 1st ADA battalion of the 204th regiment based at Newton.
  • South Carolina has the 2nd ADA battalion of the 263rd regiment at Anderson.
  • Florida has the 1st ADA battalion of the 265th regiment based at Palm Coast, the 3rd battalion at Sarasota, and the 211th Regional Training Institute at Stark.

The Florida’s National Guard’s 164th Air Defense Brigade is composed of two ADA battalions and the ADA Regional Training Institute of the 211th regiment. The 1st Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment is comprised of four Avenger batteries, one in Palatka, two in Deland, and one in Palm Coast Florida. The 3rd Battalion, 265th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, has another four Avenger batteries located in Bradenton, Fort Myers, Palmetto, and Sarasota Florida. 

The 211th Regional Training Institute is headquartered at Camp Blanding, in Stark, Florida. There they oversee the training for all deploying NCR National Guard Battalions from lower enlisted to upper senior level operators of the Sentinel, NASAM, Avenger including Command & Control. The 211th is the premier and only training school for the missile defense of the NCR. Prior to deploying to the NCR, each National Guard ADA battalion conducts a rigorous training and rehearsal exercise at the 211th Regional Training Institute in Florida.

In addition to the Army Air Defense Brigade, Florida has significant Air and Missile Defense capabilities deployed to their state:

  • A very powerful air force air defense presence, with Eglin AFB standing at the forefront as the largest AFB in the world covering more than 700 acres, it houses both F-35s and F-15 EXs. 
  • Overhead sensors in Aerostat radar dirigibles have been active since 1980 in Cudjoe Key, Florida. While it is used by Customs and Border Patrol to counter drug smuggling, the data received is available to and used by NORAD. 
  • Tyndall AFB supports the large AMALGAM DART multinational training operation that takes place between US and Canadian forces with NORAD and NORTHCOM.
  • Over The Horizon radar in Virginia monitors the Caribbean Sea around Florida, the Southern half of Central America, and the Northern part of South America.

The 211th regional training institute has led the NCR training mission effort since its inception 25 years ago. The 211th is the origination responsible for oversight and training requirements necessary to ensure that all ADA battalions are trained and ready to employ the most important national guard CONUS-based mission of defending the skies of United States most important critical asset, the National Capital Region. Recognizing this training base as the center of excellence for all national guard ADA training should be strongly considered. This would include the NASAMS system training to go alongside the Avenger and A3 Sentinel training which is not being trained in Florida and being outsourced out of state today. Considering that the 211th is at the forefront of NCR training, readiness, and operations, it would be wise to consider transitioning the 211th regional training institute into the National Guard’s 8th ADA Battalion. In doing so, this 8th ADA Battalion would possess the critical mass of leaders, training, and support personnel to provide the necessary instruction and oversight to each of the National Guard ADA battalion rotations prior to deploying to the NCR and no longer require the 211th to drain resources from the other ADA battalions.

For those who Guard The Nation, the Past is Prologue. America’s Missile Defense capabilities can and should be enhanced by expanding the National Guard’s roles and responsibilities across this space. The National Guard is best postured for leading the enduring tasks of the Missile Defense mission here at home. Like the NCR, every inch of America and her territories should be guarded by the very best — America’s National Guardians!

The sun is shining brightly on the Sunshine State for our nation’s missile defense.

Mission Statement

MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.

MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.