By Tech. Sgt. Devin Fisher
NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The North American Aerospace Defense Command symbolizes an "extraordinarily robust and long-standing defense relationship" between Canada and the United States, said Frank McKenna, Canadian Ambassador to the United States, during a visit here May 2.
"We know that we have an enviable tradition (in NORAD)," said McKenna, who became the ambassador in early March. "As an institution, (NORAD) has served us well now for (nearly) 50 years - it's a rare example of cooperation and it's been remarkably robust."
The ambassador's visit included meetings with Adm. Timothy J. Keating, NORAD and USNORTHCOM commander, and Canadian Lt. Gen. Rick Findley, NORAD deputy commander. McKenna also toured the new state-of-the-art command center at nearby Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and attended
briefings on the commands' missions and the anticipated May
2006 renewal of the NORAD agreement.
The United States and Canada have enjoyed one of the most respectful relationships of any two large nations, McKenna said. And the relationship, he added, is becoming even stronger and more robust as the two nations continue fighting the Global War on Terror.
Keating echoed the ambassador's sentiment.
"We've had our NORAD agreement - powerful, longstanding - for nearly five decades," Keating said during a May 3 press conference.
McKenna said officials in both Washington, D.C., and Ottawa strongly encouraged him to visit NORAD so he could better understand the command's mission and how the United States and Canada are working together.
He said this visit will also demonstrate Canada's commitment to the renewal of the NORAD agreement.
The common defense of the North American continent dates back to 1940, when Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King and U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt met to discuss the war in Europe and their countries' mutual defense concerns. In September 1957, the two nations agreed to create the then-"North American Air Defense Command" as a bi-national command, centralizing operational control of continental air defenses against the threat of Soviet bombers. The agreement between the Canadian and U.S. governments that established NORAD was formalized May 12, 1958.
McKenna is the second senior Canadian official to visit both NORAD and USNORTHCOM headquarters in the last month. Gen. Rick Hillier, Canadian Chief of the Defence Staff since February, visited the two commands in April.
Both Canadians applauded the commitment and dedication of the NORAD staff.
"There is no distinction between Canadians and Americans," McKenna said. "They are soldiers; they are service people working together. There's an enormous amount of goodwill, respect and affection with the people who serve here. I (am) extremely impressed with - the commitment they have to our joint defense."