UNDISCLOSED LOCATION – When it comes to the air defense mission, many people immediately think of the Air Force and its impressive arsenal of aircraft. However, the United States Army also plays a vital role in defending the skies from the ground.
A group of Soldiers currently deployed from Fort Bragg, N.C., provides 24/7 coverage against airborne threats that may target Airmen, Soldiers, civilians and coalition partners.
“Our mission is to neutralize theatre ballistic missile and aerial attacks against our defended assets in support of the combatant commander’s strategic objectives to allow U.S. coalition forces freedom of maneuver,” said Capt. Kimberly, Bravo Battery commander. “Overall we supplement the integrated air missile defense network, which is critical to maintaining air superiority in the area of responsibility. We do this through executing command and control of our land base ballistic missile defense systems and provide a high to medium altitude air defense.”
These Soldiers maintain and operate the MIM-104 Patriot, Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept On Target, Missile Defense System. The first time this system was used in combat was during the Gulf War in 1991 and has since deployed back to theater in 2003 in support of current combat operations.
“This system replaced the Nike Hercules and the Hawk missile system and is currently the Army’s primary missile defense weapon,” said 1st Lt. Peter, air and missile defense crew 3 platoon leader.
The missile system consists of launching stations, engagement control stations, antenna mass group, electric power plant generated set, radar system and a battery command post.
It takes every member of Bravo Battery, from the launching station control members to generator mechanics to successfully fire a missile.
“My job is to make sure all the launchers are ready to operate so the tactical control officer and tactical control assistant have all the missiles they need to take out any engagements that come,” said Specialist Cody, launching station control member crew 3. “I make sure there are always missiles ready to be fired.”
Once the missiles are ready, these Soldiers keep a watchful eye for any unwelcomed threats that might be coming our way.
“If there is a missile fired towards us, it is my duty to make sure it is taken out of the sky,” said Private First Class Joshua, tactical control assistant, crew 3. “My crew and I maintain the situational air defense part here and make sure everything stays out of the sky, and there are no threats that make it to the ground.”
Maintaining and ensuring this system is mission ready requires a certain set of skills, including patience and the ability to multitask.
“Due to the high level of stress from any aerial or TBM threat, you need to be able to remain calm,” said Cody. “One misstep can cost this whole base a very grave encounter.”
Although even though these Soldiers don’t get to see the results of what they do on a day-to-day basis, the job they do is still very rewarding to them.
“The most rewarding part is just knowing that I actually have an important role in the U.S. Army procedures,” said Joshua. “I know I am helping to protect the boots that are already on the ground.”
Whether it’s an exercise scenario or a real-world threat, the Soldiers of Bravo Battery stand ready to operate the Patriots, should they be needed to defend the base…