NORAD, USNORTHCOM welcome new commander

By Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen | NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | March 23, 2007

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart became the 20th commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and the third commander of U.S. Northern Command in a change-of-command ceremony today at Peterson Air Force Base.

Defending the homeland and providing defense support of civil authorities are top priorities for NORAD and USNORTHCOM, the new commander said.

"We're engaged in a long struggle against violent extremists that seek to exploit any seams in our armor," Renuart said. "Our job – (the NORAD and USNORTHCOM) team's job – is to mend those seams, to strengthen the shield."

Renuart assumed command of NORAD and USNORTHCOM from Adm. Timothy J. Keating, who is scheduled to assume command of U.S. Pacific Command March 26 in Hawaii.

"(NORAD and USNORTHCOM) have quietly and professionally conducted a mission that, by its nature, cannot fail," Renuart said. "It also has to be something that is invisible and transparent to our nation."

Renuart credited the close partnership of the United States and Canada with making NORAD effective.

"We consider our shared and peaceful border a perfect metaphor for the relationship of two distinct yet joined partners," he said, adding that NORAD and USNORTHCOM share an "ever-progressive" and "continually evolving" relationship with Mexico.

"The collaboration ... with both these nations really does reinforce the security of our homeland," Renuart said.

Before presiding over the NORAD change of command, Canadian Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Rick Hillier awarded Keating the Canadian Meritorious Service Cross.

"No two sovereign nations in the world, except for Canada and the United States, have such a unique command structure," Hillier said. NORAD's and USNORTHCOM's partnership with and assistance in standing up Canada Command "has enhanced the security of both our countries."

During Keating's tenure, NORAD and USNORTHCOM began the process of integrating into a single command center "to serve two nations better," Hillier said. "We fully support that ... and our shoulder is behind anything that gives us efficacy and efficiency whilst continuing to give us a powerful and positive effect."

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates awarded Keating the Defense Distinguished Service Medal before presiding over the USNORTHCOM change of command.

"NORTHCOM has come a long way in just a few years," Gates said. Fewer than 15 years ago, he said, the command didn't even exist and "few people were thinking seriously about the types of threats we face today."

Keating took charge of the commands two and a half years ago.

"I thought I had a reasonable idea what it would be like at NORAD and at USNORTHCOM," Keating said. "I missed the mark by a wide margin.

"The complexity of the mission, the challenge for each and every one of the men and women who come to work here every day is massive."

NORAD is a bi-national command, including both American and Canadian forces, and is charged with aerospace and maritime warning for North America.

USNORTHCOM is responsible for homeland defense and defense support of civil authorities.

"This is a sacred mission," Renuart said, "and it's one that ... (my wife) Jill and I look forward to continuing to carry."