Feb. 8, 2006 —
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – The North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command hosted a visit Feb. 7 from more than 40 senior enlisted leaders representing every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The command sergeants major, sergeants major, chief master sergeants, command master chiefs and master chief petty officers are students in Keystone, a course designed to prepare senior enlisted leaders for assignments at the joint task force/operational level of warfare. The Keystone students spent four days of the two-week course visiting one military installation of each service. Before coming to NORAD and USNORTHCOM headquarters, the group spent half a day each at Norfolk Naval Station, Langley Air Force Base, Marine Corps Base Quantico and the Coast Guard's Integrated Support Command, all located in Virginia. While in Colorado Springs, the group also visited Fort Carson.
"We've tried to pick major facilities that are indicative of what the services bring to the joint table," said Fred J. Evans, Keystone project lead. "NORTHCOM is our example of a combatant command, so we can see the 'jointness' at work."
Adm. Timothy J. Keating, NORAD and USNORTHCOM commander, explained to the Keystone group that NORAD, because it is a partnership with Canada, is a coalition command. USNORTHCOM, which is staffed by members of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, plus Department of Defense civilians, is a joint command.
"We could not begin to do what our country expects us to do, what the president tells us to do, if we didn't do it in a joint and coalition way," Keating said. "USNORTHCOM is an interagency combatant command. We have almost 60 different agencies represented every day here in our headquarters. So it's a different kind of joint warfare, but it is most assuredly joint warfare."
NORAD and USNORTHCOM's senior enlisted leader, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. D. Scott Frye, graduated from the Keystone course last year and is now a senior mentor for the program. When he heard the current Keystone class would be traveling to military installations this year, he said he immediately began lobbying for the group to come to Colorado.
"Many people in the Department of Defense ... have not had an opportunity to get schooled on the mission sets for NORAD and USNORTHCOM," Frye said. Having the Keystone group here allows the commands to "teach, demystify and clarify what it is we do with respect to homeland defense and homeland security for both NORAD and USNORTHCOM."
As senior enlisted leader of the Army National Guard, Command Sgt. Maj. John D. Gipe probably has a better understanding than most of USNORTHCOM's missions. The command and the National Guard work together closely to both defend the homeland and provide support to civil authorities, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Gipe said that not only is the Keystone course an opportunity to build relationships with his peers in other services, but he plans to use the class as a model to develop a training program for National Guard members in the states. The Keystone-style training will not only help National Guard Soldiers and Airmen work together more effectively in each state's joint force headquarters, Gipe said, "but continuing to put people through [the] Keystone [class]... will provide us better, more qualified leadership at the national level. It's just a smart way of doing business, and it's all about being ready in the future."
To be eligible to participate in Keystone, senior enlisted leaders must be currently serving in or slated to serve in a general or flag officer-level joint headquarters or service headquarters that could be assigned as a joint task force. The Keystone program is unique in its joint-service approach, Evans said.
"Each of the services has senior enlisted training programs, but they're service-centric," Evans said. "There's nothing provided ... for those moving on to joint task force assignments, such as the combatant commands and standing joint task forces and other organizations which are in charge of most of the events that the Department of Defense is involved with these days."
Keating told the Keystone students that his current position as NORAD and USNORTHCOM commander is his fifth joint position. He said he is a "firm believer" in the armed forces putting aside their differences and working together.
"I think it is a powerful message to the young men and women in our command that they see this many senior enlisted from each one of our services out here in the same room, spending time together, moving around the country, learning things about what all of us in combatant commands do," he said. "It's a powerful signal to our young men and women as to the right way to fight and win our nation's wars."