US, ROK militaries honor missile defenders
OSAN AIR BASE -- Air Defenders from the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy and the Republic of Korea Air Force gathered at Yongsan Army Garrison's Dragon Hill Lodge for the Missile Defender of the Year Ball, Nov. 8.
The event recognized the Air Defenders who won this year's competition with awards and sports memorabilia presented by three-time Superbowl champion, Riki Ellison, of the San Francisco 49ers, and founder of the non-profit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.
The ROK is the first allied nation to be included in the missile defense competition and this year marks the second such competition held here. In May, Canadian forces and the U.S. Northern Command held a similar event and the U.S. European Command is scheduled to hold one with NATO forces in April.
"There are 22 nations that share missile defense partnerships with the [U.S.]," said Ellison. "The fact that we chose the ROK to be the pathfinder speaks to just how important our friendship is." Distinguished visitors to the ball included Lt. Gen. Bernard Champoux, U.S. Eighth Army commanding general, Brig. Gen. Daniel Karbler, commanding general of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense command, Brig. Gen. Russel Mack, vice commander of the U.S. 7th Air Force, Brig Gen. Kim, Jin Hong, 3rd ROKAF ADA Brigade commander and Col. Kim, Young Lim, 2nd ROKAF ADA Brigade commander.
Champoux was the keynote speaker and stressed the importance of teamwork as well as the critical role that the Air Defenders fulfill in the Korean theater of operations. Recurring themes throughout the evening included the friendship between the U.S. and the ROK as well as both nations' commitment and capabilities to provide missile defense.
"Our alliance, forged in the crucible of combat 63 years ago, has never been stronger and continues to mature even as we speak," said Col. Thomas Nguyen, commander of the 35th ADA, which organized the event. "That partnership remains resolute and stands ready to counter any acts of provocation."
Levity was provided by the 2nd ROKAF Brigade commander who, in a translated speech, claimed to have visited three American places: Hawaii, Osan AB and Yongsan Army Garrison. The last two of which are military bases within the ROK.
Earlier in the day, the winning team members from the 35th ADA Regiment toured the Namsan Tower in Seoul and enjoyed lunch courtesy of Ellison and the MDAA. The 35th ADA held its PMDOY competition Oct. 28 -- 29 and included missile defense crew drills as well as core Soldier skills such as rifle marksmanship and a physical fitness test. Contestants also took written exams to assess their basic knowledge and technical expertise on the Patriot missile system.
Winners from each nation's Patriot forces were selected in two categories: the engagement control system and launcher system crew. The former is the "brains" of the system, sending commands to the missile launcher while the latter is the "brawn," actually moving, emplacing and maintaining the launcher to ensure its operational ability and effectiveness on the battlefield.
One U.S. Navy and one U.S. Air Force winner were selected by the Commander, Naval Forces Korea and U.S. 7th Air Force, respectively, as the best ballistic missile defense experts on the Korean peninsula.
This year's winners included 2nd Lt. Megan Paris, Spc. Laura Duran and Pfc. Ryan Eaton, for the engagement control system award, all with Battery D, 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment. The launcher station crew award was presented to Spc. Connor Moore and Spc. Vanessa Meaney, with Battery A, 6-52nd.
The U.S. Air Force honoree was Capt. Joshua Singsaas, the chief of air defense plans for the 607th Air Operations Center on Osan AB. The U.S. Navy's selectee was Lt. Cmdr. Jesse Flores, a ballistic missile defense officer with U.S. Naval Forces Korea, based in Seoul.
For the ROKAF, Lt. Noh, Tae Jin, Staff Sgt. Kim, Dae Hyuk, both with the 199th Battalion, 2nd Brigade, and Lt. Park, Hyo Chang and Platoon Sgt. Park, Dae Wook with the 177th Battalion, 3rd Brigade, won the ECS awards. Lt. Goh, Dong Yeon with the 177th Battalion, 3rd BDE and Platoon Sgt. Lee, Ho Jung, with the 199th Battalion, 2nd BDE , won the launcher station crew awards. The MDAA is a non-partisan organization that seeks to expand public awareness and garner support for missile defense activities for both the U.S. and its allies, according to the group's website.