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News | March 18, 2010

NORAD holds 5th annual weapons and tactics conference

By Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – North American Aerospace Defense Command kicked off their fifth annual weapons and tactics conference here March 16 with a call to action from Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart to find better ways to meet emerging threats without taking their eyes off traditional ones.

The conference, which runs through March 18, brings U.S. and Canadian elements of NORAD together with interagency partners to discuss policies, procedures and tactics related to the homeland defense mission.

In his opening remarks, General Renuart, NORAD commander, outlined the big picture.

“It’s really about making sure our national airspace is never used to cause us harm,” he told the attendees. “You all have work to do. There’s a lot on your plate over the next couple of days. The object, in the end, is to give us the most safe, secure and capable air defense, air sovereignty force, two nations can have, and I need you to work hard on that.”

Air Force Maj. Jim Collins, NORAD Current Operations chief of advanced programs, said the conference focuses mostly on the Operation Noble Eagle mission, which began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“We gather up representatives from all levels of the NORAD mission to discuss what they need from the headquarters, whether it’s a capability need or a procedural process change,” the pilot from Azle, Texas, said. “We talk about all the processes that surround Operation Noble Eagle, which has a focus on that asymmetric threat, things like the underwear bomber. We talk about the symmetric threat as well, the air sovereignty portion of our mission, but it’s not in the forefront.”

That mission is not strictly a military one and so neither is the conference, Major Collins explained. Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and a myriad of other U.S. and Canadian government and civil offices have sent representatives.

Col. John Zentner, NORAD Operations Division chief and native of Stone Ridge, N.Y., stressed the importance of working with NORAD’s interagency partners.

“In Operation Noble Eagle, we’ve had success because of our interagency partners, whether they’re law enforcement, FAA, TSA... That’s really where the security for fighting against the asymmetric threat exists,” he said.

“It’s not just guys in uniform,” Major Collins added. “This is a collaborative conference of interagency partners. We all get together, and we all talk about the hard issues. It’s not just a bunch of guys in uniforms talking about how we’re going to do things. It’s ‘hey, how do we work well with everyone else while ensuring the air defense of North America?’”

While much of the specifics discussed in the conference are classified, Major Collins said the people of both countries will benefit from the lessons learned during the week.

“What people will never see or understand is that what we do here is make our mission more effective,” he said. “We refine our mission and become more efficient, which gives us a better chance of success in preventing an attack on North America. That’s their benefit. The men and women who do the mission every day to provide air defense for North America are dedicated to constantly learning and improving and being better. That’s what this conference is about.”