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Awardees and presenters at the 2018 Peninsula Missile Defender of the Year Award Ceremony at Osan AFB, South Korea on November 16, 2018.

We come together on the Korean Peninsula as one allied, joint team, with one fight to be the upmost prepared and in the best readiness so we never have to go to war and to continue to provide peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula where we have an armistice with North Korea. Having the best and recognizing the very best trained teams that provide the Korean Peninsula with 365 degree and 24/7 persistent operational missile defense against all North Korean ballistic missiles and air breathing threats provides a significant opportunity, as we witness today, for diplomacy, as well as deters and discourages conflict with North Korea and gives a top ten world economy and the thriving people of the Republic of Korea – peace, harmony, and stability. 

These unheralded and understated Soldiers and Airmen, that fulfill this absolute and critical mission, are increasingly important for the solution of a denuclearized North Korea and stability if this big vision of formally ending the Korean War fails. These men and women, from both the United States of America and the Republic of Korea, with their excellence in readiness have enabled near 12 months of peace on the Korean Peninsula, absent of nuclear and ballistic missile testing by North Korea. 

We recognized this tremendous achievement during our 8th annual Peninsula Missile Defender of the Year at Osan Air Base in South Korea last Friday evening. Where we honored and recognized the 35 best of the best air and missile defenders on the Peninsula this past year from the U.S. Army 35th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Brigade, U.S. Air Force 607th Air Operations Center, and the Republic of Korea 2nd Air Defense Artillery Brigade. 

This year has been extremely special for what has transpired for the missile defense community on the Peninsula, from capacity and capability to stability of the region. In memorial to the greatest missile defender of the Korean Peninsula, Lieutenant General Thomas Vandal, who led and was consumed with passion for the best readiness of the 8th Army and the 35th Air Defense Artillery (ADA) Brigade, the leader for the Terminal High Area Altitude Defense (THAAD) battery deployment and all of its challenges to be fully operational on the Peninsula, the historic first Patriot Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) and Post-Deployment Build-8 (PDB-8) modernization for all Patriot batteries on the Peninsula and the deployment of an operational Patriot Battery to Camp Humphreys are his significant signatures of his impact as the greatest Peninsula Missile Defender. 

LTG Thomas Vandal presenting a defender of the year medal to a Republic of Korea Airmen during the 2017 Peninsula Missile Defender of the Year Award Ceremony on November 9, 2017.

We introduced an annual LTG Thomas Vandal Memorial Award for the best officer and best enlisted soldier in the excellence of leadership for the missile defense of the Korean Peninsula, that was first awarded last Friday evening. 

To bring honor to each of these 35 leaders of excellence, Brigadier General Park Chan Sik, Republic of Korea 2nd Air Defense Artillery Brigade Commander presented, met, and recognized each Peninsula Missile Defender of the Year

2018 Peninsula Defenders of the Year:

LTG Thomas Vandal MVPs

1LT Nathan Jackson (Top Gun)
SSG Phillip Toole (Master Gunner)

THAAD Crew from the 35th ADA BDE

2LT Kelsey Burns
PFC Patrick Griffin
PFC Jacob Kuchar

Patriot Crews from the 35th ADA BDE

1LT Nathan Jackson
SGT Joseph Wuebbles
CPL Austin Wecker


2LT Samuel Santa Rita
SPC Mitchell Santiago
PFC Justin Angier


SPC Leo Mangram
PFC Austin Porter
PFC Coty Giersich
PFC Adelo Fields


SPC Brandon Mitchell
PFC Matthew Pasier


SSG Raymel Shaw
SPC Jacob Samyn
PFC Devin Weinrich
PV2 Luis Baez
PV2 Gary Grimstad


Avenger Crew from the 6-52 ADA

SPC Kyle McBride
PFC Justin Kunkle


Sentinel Radar Team from the 6-52 ADA

PFC J’Ahntae Smith
PFC Sithisack Janya
SPC Kyle Robinson
PFC Jordan Hall


607th AOC

Capt Anthony Carillo
Maj Gloria Ramirez Hickey


Republic of Korea Air Force

1st Lt. Kwon OhSung
1st Lt. Yoon SungDo
MSgt. Jang SuHee
TSgt Noh SuHwan
SMsgt. Lee Jilju
Master Sergeant Lee JinMok

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.