2017 U.S. Missile Defender of the Year

Alexandria, Virginia – January 12, 2018

After the most prolific year of testing, development, demonstrations, and launches by threats from the East, the Middle East, and the Far East to the United States, its allies, and interests around the world, the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance held its 8th annual Missile Defender of the Year in Alexandria, Virginia. 

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 2017. This leadership of excellence from Chief Petty Officer to First Lieutenant 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 Donald Trump. 

In attendance, elevating the importance of the honor and mission to the four cross service awardees, was the first public appearance of the United States Undersecretary of Policy for the Department of Defense, the Honorable John Rood and the Director of the Missile Defense Agency, Lieutenant General Sam Greaves. 

The four honorees, Chief Petty Officer Zachary Quirk of the U.S. Navy, First Lieutenant Benjamin Schiff of the U.S. Army, Lieutenant Colonel Rocco Angiolelli of the U.S. Air Force, and Captain Jason Brewer of the U.S. National Guard 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.

Chief Petty Officer Zachary Quirk
Aegis BMD Destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59)
San Diego, California

“At the Mount Vernon Estate, one of the continuing trends we saw was George Washington’s drive towards science and innovation. We can see that today, we kept it as a priority and that is the reason why now we are the imminent military in the world.”

Listen to Rear Admiral John Wade introduce CPO Quirk and CPO Quirk’s acceptance speech.


First Lieutenant Benjamin Schiff
Fire Direction Center, 5-7 ADA
Baumholder, Germany

“They are the reason that I work so hard, because I could not do this without the soldiers and NCOs in my section. They are the true hope and future of America. Not me, but the NCOs that are the backbone of the army. The soldiers who will continue to do what is asked.”

Listen to Brigadier General Christopher Spillman introduce 1LT Schiff and 1LT Schiff’s acceptance speech.


Lieutenant Colonel Rocco Angiolelli
603rd Air Operations Center
Ramstein Air Base, Germany

“For me, knowing that trust now extends into a larger community I see here and that is advocated here as well. That really hits home for me.”

Listen to Major General Brian Robinson introduce Lt. Col. Angiolelli and Lt. Col. Angiolelli’s acceptance speech.


Captain Jason Brewer
Ground-Based Midcourse Defense
Colorado Springs, Colorado

“When you think about what we do, when you look at the Navy, the Air Force and how we combine it. Tonight, you have ten crew members, five at Ft. Greely and five at Colorado Springs. Tonight, at any given moment, North Korea could launch something towards us. You would fire up the TPY-2s, you would fire up the Aegis ships. Everybody would combine. No time in American history, in world history, would ten people save more lives than in the split 5 minutes of a threat going to LA.” 

Listen to Lieutenant General Daniel Hokanson introduce CPT Brewer and CPT Brewer’s acceptance speech.

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.

Rear Admiral Johnny Wolfe, Jr.
Program Executive Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, Missile Defense Agency
U.S. Navy


Rear Admiral John Wade
Commander, Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center
.S. Navy


Brigadier General Christopher Spillman
Commander, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command
U.S. Army


Major General Brian Robinson
Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, Headquarters, the Pentagon
U.S. Air Force


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

The event, the annual Missile Defender of the Year for the United States of America is held in Alexandria, Virginia on the  second Friday in the first month of the year, commemorating 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.


Alexandria 2017 Program

Audio Recording from the 2017 U.S. Missile Defender of the Year Award Ceremony

Captain Jason Brewer, National Guard

Captain Jason Brewer entered the U.S. Army in 2008 and had his first assignment with Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment U.S. Army Alaska XO/S1 at Fort Richardson, Alaska. In 2016, CPT Brewer became the Missile Defense Operations Chief at the 100th Missile Defense Brigade in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In 2017, as the Brigade Missile Defense Operations

Lieutenant Colonel Rocco Angiolelli, United States Air Force

Lieutenant Colonel Rocco J. Angiolelli is the Chief, Defensive Operations, 603rd Air Operations Center, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. In this capacity, he leads seven Airmen responsible for the real-time monitoring and execution of air and space power missions. His plans, coordinates and executes combined/joint theater missile defense for both USEUCOM and USAFRICOM areas of responsibility,

First Lieutenant Benjamin Schiff, United States Army

First Lieutenant Benjamin E. Schiff was born in Nephi, UT and grew up in Detroit, MI. In 2008, he enlisted in the United States Army as a 36B, Financial Management Specialist. In 2014, he commissioned as an Air Defense Artillery Officer through the United States Military Academy at West Point. 1LT(P) Schiff’s first assignment beginning

Chief Petty Officer Zachary Quirk, United States Navy

Chief Petty Officer Zachary Quirk enlisted in the Navy in June 2011 and completed Recruit Training in Great Lakes, Illinois. After graduating from Fire Controlman class “A” school, he then completed SPY-1 B/BV/D training at Aegis Training and Readiness Center, Dahlgren, Virginia. In 2017, CPO Quirk volunteered as an Individual Augmentee to the Combined Air

Defenders of the Year