Florida Air Defenders adopt new training to counter ballistic missiles

By: 2nd Lt. James Lanza

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Maj. Gen. Timothy Sheriff, Commander of the 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command hands graduation certificates to the 12 Soldiers of the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade who completed the Patriot Training Program, designed to teach Army National Guard air defenders how to properly integrate systems such as Patriot Surface to Air Missiles and THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) within their commands, during a ceremony at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. (Photo Credit: 2nd Lt. James Lanza)

STARKE, Fla. - Today, the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade recognized the accomplishments of 12 Soldiers graduating from the 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command's Patriot Training Program during a ceremony at the Florida Army National Guard's Regional Training Institute at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center.

The program, designed to teach Army National Guard air defenders how to properly integrate systems such as Patriot Surface-to-Air Missiles and THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) within their existing command, is the product of a growing challenge air defense units have faced in past years.

Due to a major increase in threats, the air defense artillery community has faced an uptick in mobilizations and missions. International crises have demanded the expedited and unplanned mobilizations of assets such as THAAD and Patriot weapon platforms, designed to intercept and destroy enemy ballistic missiles. The need to quickly integrate these systems into existing commands have proven to be one of the major challenges to Army National Guard air defense artillery brigades, spurring the creation of the Patriot Training Program.

"This program is designed to fill a capability void for National Guard air defense brigades, giving them Patriot and THAAD experience, which we had previously lacked," said Maj. Gen. Timothy Sheriff, Commander of the 263rd Army Air and Missile Defense Command. "Air Defense is one of the top modernization priorities of the Army. As we move toward multi-domain operations, we're required to enhance our capabilities and look at new ways to defend the force."

In the past, weapon platforms such as the Avenger Air Defense System, were unable to integrate other platforms such as Patriot or THAAD into their command, with each system needing its own separate command and control elements. The Patriot Training Program ensures each system can be quickly streamlined under a single command.

"We have now added high and medium altitude air defense knowledge as a critical competency to our missions. This knowledge is critical for ensuring we are successful at our brigades current and future missions," said Col. Sean Boyette, Commander of the 164th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. "This is a key requirement as we prepare for our mobilization to Europe, where we will provide command and control of Patriot assets."

While this training added a new capability to the unit, many Soldiers highlighted how the program enhanced their capacity to operate in a joint and multinational environment.

"After this program, I'm better equipped to speak the joint language and integrate Patriots, not only for our U.S. Soldiers, but also our joint and international partners overseas," said Maj. Scott Peterson, a recent Patriot Training Program graduate.

After the moment of recognition for the new graduates, Soldiers were quick to return to training for their upcoming mobilization in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve, knowing their training plays a key role in the furthering of our national interests.

"These Soldiers step away from this training as subject matter experts on Patriot procedures and air battle management, while getting experience on theater air and missile defense systems and integrating joint theater assets," said Sheriff. "This training fits into the U.S. National Defense Strategy and signifies that we have the capabilities to protect and defend our nation and its allies around the world."


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