Vets tour NORAD and USNORTHCOM

By Tech. Sgt. Kurt Arkenberg | NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | October 28, 2010

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - Nearly 25 veterans from WWII, Korea and Vietnam visited the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command today to learn about the technology and missions of the commands and to share their stories with today's warfighters.

The vets toured the headquarters building, including the command center, after a few welcome remarks from Navy Adm. James Winnefeld, NORAD and USNORTHCOM commander and a briefing on the commands and their missions.

"We are here today to truly honor and to celebrate your service and sacrifice," said Winnefeld. "And to show you where the groundwork you laid has taken us.

I know some of you tire of hearing 'The Greatest Generation,' but it's true, and I think this latest generation of the military are the next greatest generation."

The admiral compared their times and current times as two of history's most significant threats to freedom.

"WWII was a defining moment in America and in the world," said Winnefeld. "During that time we had unprecedented growth of new concepts and strategies. It was an intense moment for freedom around the world, and you answered that call.

"9/11 was also an intense moment for freedom. And as such, there was a military outgrowth and strategies."

The admiral concluded his comments by thanking each of the American heroes.

"There are more than 1,000 members here from all branches of service, Canadian Forces as well as some wonderful civilians that might not be here if not for your sacrifices and for that, again, we thank you," said the admiral in closing.

Most impressive to the majority of the vets, was the command center and new technologies available to the modern warfighter. The ability to monitor the skies from a control room that is far from the action would have been a game-changer for the vets.

"It's amazing (the technology used today)," said retired Army Maj. Duke Boswell, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division in WWII and Korea. Boswell was awarded the French Legion of Honor, the highest French military award, by the French president for his efforts during D-Day on the battle’s 65th anniversary.

"It's one of the most important pieces to make war more civilized," said Boswell. "All we had was a radio phone or walky-talky that may or may not work for a mile, and if we were armed with these advancements in communication, we would have been a lot safer."

Boswell relayed a story that highlighted what lives could've been saved using technology NORAD and USNORTHCOM personnel find commonplace.

"When we jumped into Sicily as the first group, we set up a position and waited for more troops who were dropping in the next day," said Boswell. "Word didn't get to the Navy that we would have more troops coming, and they shot down about 25 of our own aircraft simply due to lack of communication.

"Better communication would have saved lives."

The vets left with first-hand knowledge of the commands' abilities and importance, while those working today were reminded of the sacrifices of those before them and how those sacrifices helped mold today's forces.