19 years ago, a beautiful September morning turned catastrophic when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center, followed by United Airlines Flight 175 striking into the South Tower, American Airlines Flight 77 striking into the Pentagon, and United Airlines Flight 93 crashing near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after passengers bravely fought back. Our way of life was forever changed, shattering our perceptions of national defense of the homeland. The occurrences of that fateful day are etched into our collective memory from the sacrifice of thousands of innocent American lives. On this date of solemnity and mourning, we offer our deepest condolences in remembrance of the lives tragically lost on September 11, 2001, as well as the countless lives lost in the ensuing conflicts sparked by the events of that day. May the memory of the fallen, their sacrifice, their lives… live on in our hearts and minds to inspire vigilance in the defense of our homeland, for generations to come.
In the face of terror, the American people demonstrated unconquerable resilience, unabated courage, and commitment to the defense of our country. To ensure that attacks through the air would be negated, the United States quickly established the National Capital Region Integrated Air Defense System (NCR-IADS) in 2001, shortly after 9/11. NCR-IADS has and continues to provide, 360-degree air defense of the National Capital Region — home to our nation’s capital, the United States Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House. The NCR-IADS is the only 360-degree cruise-missile defense system operationally deployed by the United States military. It is there in sole protection of the most valuable pillars of American democracy. It is manned and operated by the Army and Air National Guard, and has sensors and shooters of Sentinel Phased-Array Warning Radar, NASAMS, Avenger Air Defense System, and Stingers, that integrate into the Joint Air Defense Operation Center (JADOC) in a complex urban air-traffic environment. This system relies on “in-place assets in a quick-reaction posture of the Coast Guard, the USAF, and National Guard, to protect all the key locations in the National Capital Region from air attacks” and augments USAF Operation Noble Eagle (ONE) fighter defenses, which provide the overall aerospace warning and control for the defense of the U.S. and Canada. It is overseen by Lt. Gen Laura J. Richardson, Commander, United States Army North (Fifth Army), and U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen Kirk Pierce, Commander, 1st Air Force (Air Forces Northern), who report to Gen Glen D. VanHerck, U.S. NORTHCOM, and NORAD.
This critical mission-with-vigilance is defended by rotating National Guard units from Florida, Mississippi, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Carolina, supplemented by the District of Columbia Air National Guard, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The Air Defense umbrella fits -like in other regions throughout the world where the United States Armed Forces are operating- with Army Air and Missile Defense Commands (AAMDC) reporting to the USAF CFAC (Combined Forces Air Component) Commander. The South Carolina National Guard’s 263rd Army Air Missile Defense Command is filling this role in the NCR.
Two days ago, on September 9th, the change of command for the JADOC transfer of authority took place: from Colonel Shane Hartley, Ohio Army National Guard, and Commander, Task Force Buckeye, to Colonel Patrick Thompson, Commander TF Anaconda, at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB). The continuity of command and mission throughout these past 19 years provides the learned adaptation of best practices, in order to sustain the capability of defense and protection for the National Capital Region. This unit will forever be a sacred and key part of the command and control network for the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s fully-integrated, multi-layered air and missile defense in the NCR.
The world that we live in today, compared to the one we left behind on that fateful September morning 19 years ago, must guard against complacency — we must continue to uphold our courage and commitment to defend the nation. Moreover, as we honor our shared history and the collective courage that founded our most precious American way of life, we must remain free and brave to preserve our future. It is thus essential that on this anniversary of one of America’s darkest hours, we reflect on our past and brighten the times ahead.
We must continue to defend and advance the life, the liberty, and the happiness of generations to come.