NORAD, USNORTHCOM host senior enlisted military leaders

By Sgt. 1st Class Gail Braymen | NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | February 14, 2008

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command hosted a visit this week from several dozen servicemembers enrolled in the Keystone command senior enlisted leader course.

All of the Keystone fellows either currently hold or will soon hold positions in joint assignments.

"As time has progressed ... we find [noncommissioned officers] serving on the staffs of joint task forces, as well as serving as the senior enlisted leaders of these organizations and combatant commands," said Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel Wood, NORAD and USNORTHCOM command senior enlisted leader. "Yet nowhere is there exposure or education within the particular services of joint doctrine and joint capabilities; it doesn't exist on the enlisted side of the house."

About five years ago, though, the command senior enlisted leaders of several combatant commands created the Keystone program to fill the "vacuum in the knowledge base for NCOs on joint subjects," Wood said.

The staff of NORAD and USNORTHCOM, like the Keystone class, includes Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen representing every branch of the U.S. uniformed services.

Although most military personnel are knowledgeable about their own branches of service, said Wood, "we fight America's wars, we fight the Global War on Terrorism, through [joint service] combatant commands.

"The services have the responsibility to man, train and equip. The combatant commands have the responsibility to execute our national military strategy throughout the world."

Keystone fellows spend the first half of the two-week program studying joint doctrine, the planning process and joint capabilities, then "they go out and visit different combatant commands to see [those subjects] in action and to get a better understanding of the processes," Wood said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Sitton, the Nevada Army National Guard state command sergeant major, described the Keystone visit to NORAD and USNORTHCOM as "very interesting and very informative.

"In the Guard," he said, "the only time you're really going to work jointly is if you're in theater or at NORTHCOM. At our level, basically it's only divisions and battalions that get that opportunity."

Participating in Keystone takes senior enlisted leaders from the tactical level to the operational planning level, said Master Chief Petty Officer James Delozier, command master chief of the USS Ronald Reagan. Visiting NORAD and USNORTHCOM, he added, let the Keystone fellows see how the Department of Defense works with local, state and federal agencies to defend the homeland and provide defense support of civil authorities.

"It's one big team at NORTHCOM," Delozier said. "That is very unique and, I think, from a senior enlisted perspective, it's something [people] at the tactical level don't realize is happening at the higher levels."

Wood agreed that broadening horizons is a goal of the Keystone program.

" great benefit, in my mind, specific to NORAD and USNORTHCOM, is the exposure to what the Department of Defense is tangibly doing for the defense and security of the homeland," Wood explained. "Unless you're exposed to what these two commands do, in particular, you wouldn't have the level of awareness as to all the things the Department of Defense is currently doing to secure our homeland."

NORAD, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in May, is the bi-national Canadian and American command responsible for the air defense of North America and maritime warning for Canada and the United States.

U.S. Northern Command was established on Oct. 1, 2002, to anticipate and conduct homeland defense and civil support operations within the assigned area of responsibility to defend, protect, and secure the United States and its interests.