Command Senior Enlisted Leaders visit NORAD AND USNORTHCOM

By Maj Maria Quon NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs


Forty-two Keystone Fellows visited North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) July 24 to learn about the operational, training and legal challenges involved in the homeland defense and civil support missions.

“Our number one strategic objective in the national defense strategy is to defend the homeland in depth,” said Sgt. Maj. William T. Kinney, U.S. Marine Corps, a Senior Mentor of the Keystone class and U.S. Pacific Command Senior Enlisted Leader.

“It’s important for the Fellows to understand that this [North America] is a theater of operations, just as CENTCOM [the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility] is a theater, or PACOM [U.S. Pacific Command] or EUCOM [U.S. European Command]. [NORAD-USNORTHCOM] is its own regional theater with its own very distinct missions which are much more complex due to working the interagency, the states and the National Guard.”

Keystone, a course organized by National Defense University in conjunction with U.S. Joint Forces Command, exposes command senior enlisted leaders from all the services to the joint service environment prior to joint assignments.

“We know we’re fighting this fight jointly,” said Kinney. “In a lot of cases, this is the first time senior enlisted leaders from the services have been exposed to the joint environment.”

Sgt. Maj. D. Scott Frye, U.S. Marine Corps, NORAD-USNORTHCOM Sergeant Major and a Senior Mentor for Keystone, said, “The intent of the course is to push a certain focus within the senior enlisted community to ensure that we remain relevant to our commanders with respect to this global fight – the long war.”

Chief Master Sgt. Tony Bishop, U.S. Air Force, Keystone Fellow and U.S. Pacific Air Forces Command Chief, noted that the Keystone experience has greatly exceeded his expectations.

“One, the level of leadership that is talking to us, and two, the level of information we’re getting and discussion we’re having. We’re looking at how we interoperate and make our services interdependent on each other, in what we see as the way of doing business in the future for the United States military.

The reality of it is, we are going to be co-located and interoperable in everything we do from this day forward. Bringing the senior enlisted leaders at this level together to start building those relationships to effectively do that is critical.”

Bishop added, “One of the toughest things for a combatant commander or Joint Task Force commander to do is to bring all the interagency together along with the Dept. of Defense to form a team. This is something that NORAD and USNORTHCOM have to do daily … I would say NORAD and USNORTHCOM have the greatest challenge of meeting its mission based on all those relationships and legal constraints.”

Chief Master Sgt. Ken McQuiston, U.S. Air Force, Keystone Fellow and U.S. Transportation Command Senior Enlisted Advisor, commented, “The biggest thing I’ll take away from this stop is to see the incredibly large footprint that NORAD and USNORTHCOM are responsible for, not only in the homeland defense business but also in the homeland security business … We’ve been on the road now for a week.

The care and feeding that we have received, the briefing by Adm. Keating, is buy-in from our senior leaders that this is a vital program and of vital importance in the development of senior enlisted members. This has been an awesome stop for us.”

“We’ve all come to understand that the senior enlisted leader has a new role in the long war,” said Kinney.

“Previous to 9/11 senior enlisted leaders were boxed into their areas of responsibility: morale, welfare, family readiness, housing, those types of issues. Since 9/11 we’ve looked at ourselves and asked ‘What’s our part in this war? How are we going to help to win the long war?’ Fulfilling just those legacy responsibilities is not going to be enough. We want to be able to do our part, and to do our part we’ve got to understand the operational side of the house.”