U.S. and Republic of Korea air defenders across the Korean peninsula culminated the third annual Korean Peninsula Missile Defender of the Year competition with a banquet at U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan’s Dragon Hill Lodge Nov. 21 to honor top performers.
Each year the award is given to U.S. armed force service members from each branch that currently deploys a U.S. Missile Defense System.
This year’s event included ROK air force and navy as well as U.S. Short Range Air and Missile Defense Soldiers attached to the 210th Field Artillery Brigade.
“Missile defenders are key enablers and force multipliers who contribute to reducing the levels of complexity and uncertainty in the environment,” said Col. Thomas Nguyen, 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade commander. “They support operations from the tactical to the strategic level of command and their sphere of influence is from mud to space.”
U.S. Short Range Air and Missile Defense Soldiers from Echo Battery, 6-52 Air and Missile Defense Battalion based in Camp Casey competed in a crew competition to determine the best Avenger Air Defense System crew. Events included a physical fitness test, a test of general military knowledge, crew drills, a ruck march and ground and aerial gunnery using the system’s M3P .50-caliber heavy machine gun. Sgt. Andrew Coleman and Pfc. Christian Reyes accepted the award on behalf of Echo Battery, 6-52 AMD Battalion.
Soldiers from across the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade competed in a crew competition to determine the best Information Coordination Central crew. The competition had nine events over a 48-hour period: a physical fitness test, a test of general military knowledge an evaluation of warrior tasks, written tactics, crew drills, air battles, a 6-mile ruck march, weapons qualification and a dress uniform inspection. The ICC crew with the highest score consisted of: 1st Lt. Megan Parris, Sgt. Joseph Huerta and Spc. Matthew Wilke.
Air Force Maj. Thomas Garvin, of the Seventh Air Force, was recognized for his contributions to missile defense as the chief of the Targeting Effects Team. Garvin and his team manage and evaluate component target nominations before compiling them into a Joint Prioritized Target List in support of air and missile defense operations on the peninsula.
ROK navy Capt. Jong-Joon Yoon, of Combined Naval Forces – Korea, was recognized for his contributions to ballistic missile defense as commanding officer of Sejong the Great Class DD993guided missile destroyer named “Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong.”
The DDG 993 is the ROK’s pre-eminent multi-mission platform in support of world ballistic missile operations on the Korean peninsula.
ROKAF air defenders competed in a crew competition to determine the best Engagement Control Station crew. Events for the competition included an evaluation of engagement control operations, execution of emplacement procedures and missile system operational status validation during numerous exercises throughout the year.
The best ROKAF ECS crew from 3rd ADA BDE consisted of: ROKAF 1st Lt. Jun Jin Bum and Master Sgt. Jung Won-Kyoung. ROKAF Master Sgt. Lee Kiljoo was recognized as the best launcher operator.
The best ROKAF ECS crew from 2nd ADA BDE consisted of: ROKAF 1st Lt. Kim Ju Hyun and Master Sgt. Lee Chan Woo. ROKAF Master Sgt. Park Ki Hoon was recognized as the best launcher operator.
All awardees received a trophy, a Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance coin, a medal, a 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command coin, a Combined Naval Forces – Korea coin, a Seventh Air Force coin, an autographed San Francisco 49ers jersey and football signed by the founder of MDAA and three-time Super Bowl champ, Riki Elllison.
In addition to Ellison, attendees of the Peninsula Missile Defender of the Year banquet included ROKAF Maj. Gen. (retired) Lee, former commander of the Air Defense Missile Command, U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of U.S. Naval Forces – Korea, U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Russell Mack, vice commander of Seventh Air Force, Brig. Gen. Eric Sanchez, commander of 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command and Eighth Army commanding general Lt. Gen. Bernard Champoux.
“Competitions like this are an investment in our future and help our warriors maintain their combat edge,” said Champoux. “It also reminds our service members, both Korean and American, of their vital role in preserving stability and prosperity in Korea and the region.”