VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – The men and women of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade (MDB) live by the motto “300 Soldiers protecting 300 million Americans,” and with a responsibility that great – a no-fail mission that citizens unwittingly rely on every day for their lives – missile defenders take their jobs very seriously.
“We’re on standby to make sure nothing happens to our country,” California Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Norman Perkins said. “On Saturday night at 2 a.m., [I’m] sitting in a 15-by-15 [foot] room with no windows thinking, ‘I wonder if anything will happen tonight’ – and you hope it doesn’t. Your best day is when nothing happens.”
“The 300” are spread across three states – California, Alaska and Colorado – including 14 Soldiers of the California Army National Guard who are stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base, roughly midway between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. Though the California contingent makes up less than 5 percent of the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, those Guardsmen have already made a big impact on the missile defense world, with two members of Detachment 1, 100th MDB, holding the prestigious Missile Defender of the Year Award, which has been presented only five times by the nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
“I was given the award, but quite honestly it’s a team effort,” Perkins said a week after the Jan. 10 awards ceremony in Alexandria, Virginia. “The award and the coin and all that, I showed it to my team members and said, ‘Alright, now we’ve got two winners here at Vandenberg, so next year one of you all needs to go win it.’ We’ve got a lot of great people here working together.”
Vandenberg’s other winner, Staff Sgt. Aric Wilkins, is a newcomer to Detachment 1, having won the Missile Defender of the Year Award in 2012 as a member of the Alaska National Guard. The two have become well-acquainted since Wilkins joined the Cal Guard in May, partly because Wilkins took over Perkins’ old job as the detachment’s training noncommissioned officer (NCO).
With that off his plate, Perkins now only serves as the unit’s administrative NCO, family readiness coordinator and master resilience trainer. That is, of course, in addition to his primary role as a command launch equipment (CLE) operator…