2016 U.S. Missile Defender of the Year

Alexandria, Virginia / January 13, 2017

The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance honored and recognized the very best missile defense leadership for the United States of America from each of the four military services for the year 2016. This leadership of excellence from Petty Officer to Staff Sargent to Lieutenant Colonel, and from our Army, Navy, Air Force and National Guard, represented the apex of U.S. Missile Defense around the world today and put forward under the command of the Commander and Chief, President Barack Obama.

The four honorees, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony J. Owens of the U.S. Air Force, Staff Sergeant Caroline Domenech of the U.S. National Guard, and Petty Officer First Class Nathaniel Lynch of the U.S. Navy, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin M. Kruthers of the U.S. Army, led from their positions of command earning respect, trust and honor for their actions on the four most prominent missile defense platforms and systems that have been put in place in the world today.

Lt Col Anthony J. Owens

European Phased Adaptive Approach

Ramstien AFB, Germany

“Our missile defense systems must evolve to defend against our enemies and future missile threats.”


SSG Caroline Domenech

Ground Based Interceptors

Fort Greely, Alaska

“I hope this will inspire soldiers to go that extra mile and to give back to their communities. Some believe that they need to be high ranking to make a difference but forget that even the lowest ranking individuals can make that difference.”


PO1 Nathaniel Lynch

Aegis BMD Cruiser equipped with Baseline 9 (USS John Paul Jones DDG-53)

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

“Thank you to CF Division, the division I am in charge of. Without their support, knowledge, and tutelage…I wouldn’t be here tonight.”



CW2 Kevin M. Kruthers

Patriot missile defense 10th AAMDC for NATO and Israel

Kaiserslautern, Germany

“All the money and all the research and development and the greatest weapons in the world are never going to suffice without people. We are always going to face challenges…with resources…and we need our people to win wars. I think that is our ultimate weapon as missile defenders.”



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.


Major General Scott A. Vander Hamm

Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations

U.S. Air force


Lieutenant General Daniel R. Hokanson

Vice Chief and Previous Deputy Commander of USNORTHCOM

U.S. National Guard


Vice Admiral Dixon R. Smith

Commander, Navy Installations Command

U.S. Navy


Lieutenant General Ben Hodges

Commander, U.S. Army Europe

U.S. Army



The event, the 7th annual Missile Defender of the Year was held in Alexandria, Virginia on the 13th of January, commentating the first U.S. combat missile intercept, which occurred in 1991 when a Patriot air defense system intercepted an Iraqi Scud missile during Operation Desert Storm.


Click here to view the program with biographies of each of the winners.

Audio from the 2016 U.S. Missile Defender of the Year Award Ceremony.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin M. Kruthers, United States Army

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin M. Kruthers enlisted in the Army in 2004 as a Patriot Enhanced Operator/Maintainer. In October 2010, he attended Warrant Officer Candidate School at Fort Rucker. He masterfully executed “Austere Challenge” including GCC STRATCOM level visibility messaging via Multi-National Patriot Live Fire with his unit’s Radar Set and PAC-3 ELES Launching

Petty Officer First Class Nathaniel Lynch, United States Navy

Petty Officer Nathaniel Lynch enlisted in the Navy on February 8, 2005 and completed Recruit Training in Great Lakes, Illinois. After graduating Fire Controlmen “A” school, he then went on to attend Aegis Computer “C” school at Aegis Training and Readiness Center, Dahlgren, Virginia. In July 2006, he reported onboard USS PHILIPPINE SEA and completed

Staff Sergeant Caroline Domenech, National Guard

SSG Caroline Domenech currently serves in HHB (Air Defense Artillery), 49th Missile Defense Battalion; Fort Greely, AK. She has held a variety of leadership positions, including Military Police Team Leader, Company Liaison with the DA Police Department, and Company Training Noncommissioned Officer (NCO). SSG Domenech’s awards include the Army Achievement Medal (4th Award), Army Good

Lieutenant Colonel Anthony J. Owens, United States Air Force

Lieutenant Colonel Anthony J. Owens is Deputy Chief, Integrated Air and Missile Defense Division, Headquarters United States Air Forces Europe – Air Force Africa, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.  He is responsible for providing staff support to POTUS-directed European Phased Adaptive Approach for ballistic missile defense. He leads planning and integration of air and ballistic missile

Defenders of the Year