Training to counter capabilities

By MC1(SW/AW) Joaquin Juatai


PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command are currently involved in Exercise Vigilant Shield ’07 (VS 07), a robust, two-week exercise involving multiple simulated attacks effecting the military and other state and federal agencies throughout North America. The exercise continues through December 14 and is one of several exercises both commands engage in throughout the year.

The aggressor nations that NORAD and USNORTHCOM face are fictional; some individuals have incorrectly tried to draw parallels to real-world countries.

“We live in the real world, and there aren’t a lot of countries that have certain capabilities, and there are many countries that have other capabilities,” said Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of NORAD and USNORTHCOM. “If you worry about intercontinental ballistic missiles, you can come up with a list … of those countries that have those capabilities.”

Keating explained that, for the purposes of training, it is important to have a viable “enemy” and that realism in training is an essential factor in preparing to respond to a potential real-world threat.

“Insofar as [our exercise developers] giving – let’s say, Switzerland – the capability to launch a nuclear war (against) the United States, has no basis in rational thinking,” Keating said. “Our main mission: We’re here to defend the United States of America and Canada.

Keating emphasized NORAD and USNORTHCOM’s desire to be as transparent as possible, both to foster good relations and to make clear that these commands are ready to execute their respective missions.

“There are important themes…that we hope countries observing us pick up on,” Keating asserted. “We’re a defensive organization. We have no intention of conducting offensive operations unless we’re attacked.”

Keating explained that NORAD and USNORTHCOM have a fairly aggressive program to host military officials from foreign nations, giving the example of a recent visit from senior Russian military officials, as well as visits from the Turkish military and military officials from Mexico.

“We want to continue to have them work with us to fight the global war on terror,” Keating said. “Any inference that we’re saying one thing out of one side of our mouth … and exercising a different way is an incorrect inference.”

VS 07 exercise events include a variety of threats and disasters, such as the simulated crash of an Air Force C-17 transporting nuclear weapons, ships approaching North America with potentially hostile intentions, and threats against military bases. Following the exercise, the participants will spend considerable time reviewing the lessons learned – before preparing for the next exercise in early 2007.