Lieutenant-Colonel Nathan Willis, United States Air Force, was recently recognized as the First Air Force (United States Air Force) Field Grade Officer of the Third Quarter (July to September 2020). Lt Col Willis was honoured for his work as a member of Canadian NORAD Region headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba at a virtual ceremony held by Lieutenant-General Kirk S. Pierce, Commander of First Air Force, Air Forces Northern and Continental NORAD Region on Friday, November 20, 2020.
Demonstrating the fully integrated, bi-national relationship inherent in the NORAD structure, as Chief of Plans and Exercises for the Canadian NORAD Region, Lt Col Willis was the Air Expeditionary Group Commander for US Air Forces at Exercise Amalgam Dart as well as Operation Noble Defender. In the face of the global pandemic, Lt Col Willis developed plans to ensure the safety of all participating personnel and local communities so that the Royal Canadian Air Force and USAF were able to smoothly integrate operations for the defence of North America.
Lt Col Willis also directed a COVID-19 Working Group, focused on risk analysis and developing mitigation strategies to ensure that operations within the RCAF’s 1 Canadian Air Division, and across the Canadian NORAD Region, were able to execute the defence of Canada safely.
Exemplifying the close bi-national relationship between Canada and the United States, as a senior staff officer, Lt Col Willis headed working groups which sought to enhance security in Canadian air and maritime domains. This produced concepts to synchronize the Canadian NORAD Region’s efforts to protect the sovereignty of Canadian airspace and waterways and coordinate a strategic response in defence of North America.
“Lt Col Willis has shown dedication and determination to accomplish a wide range of missions in the defence of North America during these unprecedented times,” said Brigadier-General Edward Vaughan, Deputy Commander, Canadian NORAD Region. “Through innovation and cooperation with our health experts, Lt Col Willis developed plans to enable operations, while mitigating COVID-19 transmission risks. These are no small feats and he is very deserving of this recognition.”
During this time he also held watch as Chief of Combat Operations in the Canadian Combined Aerospace Operations Centre, responsible for over 900 missions ranging from defence of North America to search and rescue, leading dozens of Canadian and American military personnel.