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Awardees and presenters at MDAA's 9th Annual U.S. Missile Defender of the Year Award Ceremony on January 11, 2019.

“This is about those four winners. They are the reflection of many and this event, which now marks 600 is our most powerful event, our most favorite event over all the things we do because it is the bloodline; it is the heartbeat; it is the grit of this culture, that is unlike any that has brought across the board the services. Across the world, nations. To bring together a defense that makes our world safe.” – Riki Ellison, January 11, 2019

Last Friday, the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance held its 9th annual U.S. Missile Defender of the Year award ceremony in Alexandria, Virginia, commemorating the very best excellence of leadership from U.S. missile defense operators.

MDAA brought forward our nation’s very best missile defender from each of the four military services from around the world to be honored and recognized for excellence in leadership in 2018. The leadership of excellence from Chief Warrant Officers to Captain and from our Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard, represents the apex of U.S. missile defense around the world today at a critical juncture in the upcoming expansion of missile defense.

In attendance, elevating the importance of the honor and mission to the four cross service awardees, was the Honorable John Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the U.S. Department of Defense and Lieutenant General Sam Greaves, Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

The four honorees, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lucas Watterson of the U.S. Army, Captain Rex Villa of the U.S. Air Force, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jacob Moore of the National Guard, and Lieutenant Junior Grade McKenzie Anderson of the U.S. Navy led from their positions of command earning respect, trust, and honor for their actions to make our world a safer place.

Chief Watterson was also awarded the prestigious U.S. Army’s 2018 James A. Shipton Award, named for Brigadier General James A. Shipton, who is acknowledged as the founding father of the Air Defense Artillery branch.

These four recognized leaders brought our total number of MDAA Missile Defender of the Year awardees to 600, that have been recognized across the globe from 17 countries.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Lucas Watterson
32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command
Fort Bliss, Texas


Captain Rex Villa
55th Operations Group, 55th Wing
Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska


Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jacob Moore
49th Missile Defense Battalion
Fort Greely, Alaska


Lieutenant Junior Grade McKenzie Anderson
Aegis BMD Destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78)
Rota, Spain

Presenting these inspirational leaders were distinguished flag officers of each of the respective four services that commanded their mission of deterrence and defense to provide stability and peace to the populations and homelands that they protect.

Lieutenant General Tom Seamands
Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Army
U.S. Army


Lieutenant General David Thompson
Vice Commander, Air Force Space Command
U.S. Air Force


Lieutenant General Daniel Hokanson
Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau
U.S. National Guard


Vice Admiral Dixon Smith
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Fleet Readiness and Logistics
U.S. Navy

The annual U.S. Missile Defender of the Year award ceremony is held in Alexandria, Virginia on the second Friday in January to commemorate the first U.S. combat missile intercept, which occurred in January 18, 1991 when a Patriot air defense system intercepted an Iraqi Scud missile during Operation Desert Storm.

“We have to win. We have to win, and the culture leads us to win. And all of you are part of that. And all of you have that obligation; to win and to recognize excellence as we have done tonight.” – Riki Ellison, January 11, 2019

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.