COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 30, 2014) -- After a decade of defending the skies over the U.S., the 100th Missile Defense Brigade (Ground-based Midcourse Defense) and the system it operates are more capable than ever.
The 100th MDB is a mutli-component brigade made up of Army National Guard Soldiers, along with a small, but vital, contingent of active component Soldiers in Colorado, California and Alaska, who are tasked with the mission of defending the homeland from ballistic missile attacks.
The GMD system, as a part of the overall Ballistic Missile Defense System, was declared operational by the administration of former President George W. Bush 10 years ago on Sept. 30. On that day, the brigade's missile defenders began operating fire control centers at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Schriever Air Force Base, Colo, to monitor the skies over the nation 24/7/365 for incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles. That mission has not changed; however, the capabilities of the system and the ability of the crews, security personnel and support staff to perform the mission have matured.
The maturation of systems and operators was and continues to be necessary to combat current and emerging threats.
"Our threat is intelligible and we constantly engage in a spiral race between our development and that of our adversaries," said Lt. Col Roland Quidachay, executive officer of the 100th MDB. "Only a decade ago, the threat's movement and preparedness was tracked on a calendar. Today, and in the future, that movement will be tracked on a stopwatch."
The 100th MDB has become particularly adept at the constant development of the system as it works closely with the Missile Defense Agency. Dating back to Bush's 2002 directive to develop "an initial set of missile defense capabilities" by 2004, the system's Initial Operating Capability was fielded with the technology and hardware that would be available in that period of time.
From the outset, GMD would undergo an acquisition model of "Spiral Development." This means that the system and its operators would conduct live operations concurrent with research, development, test and evaluation. These concurrent tasks, matching increased system capabilities with updated tactics, techniques and procedures, are something at which the Soldiers of the 100th MDB have become particularly adept.
"A lot of early operations and training involved constantly conducting simulations and observing GMD Fire Control system behavior," said Maj. Amy Berisford, 100th MDB Human Resource Officer, and one of the five original 49th Missile Defense Battalion's crewmembers at Fort Greely.
Then, as now, the GMD Fire Control simulations are highly dynamic. Crews can conduct the exact same scenario multiple times and any difference in the crew's reaction and timing could alter the outcome of the scenario.
Since 2004, the GMD system has increased its capability with additional sensor systems that increase the fidelity and coverage of the system such as upgraded early warning radars, transportable X-band radars (AN-TPY2), AEGIS radar on board select U.S. Navy warships, and the massive sea-based X-band Radar. From an original fleet of five ground based interceptors at Fort Greely, the system now has 30 GBIs between Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif, 10 of which carry an improved exo-atmospheric kill vehicle known as Capability Enhancement II. Many of the GBIs have also undergone refurbishment to update the booster vehicle and extend their service life.
The 100th MDB has also increased the ability of its Soldiers to man the system. Originally, only about 30 Soldiers were trained and certified to operate the system. As of today, MDA and now the U.S. Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command have trained more than 300 Soldiers as operators through the GMD Fire Control Qualification Course, a school now recognized as a U.S. Army training and doctrine Command "Institution of Excellence." The course, conducted by SMDC-Directorate of Training Development , received a 100 percent on its most recent inspection in 2013, a distinction no other school in the Army holds. GMD Soldiers attending this rigorous course must attain at least a 90% academic score to meet graduation requirements.
The conditions and environment that Soldiers of the 100th MDB, specifically the 49th MDB at Fort Greely operate in are some of the harshest in the world. Soldiers and their families live and work under conditions that range from 24 hours of daylight and temperatures in excess of 90 degrees to more than 20 hours of darkness and temperatures as low as 70 below zero.
Improvements for the Soldiers of the 49th MBD since 2004 include issue of the Extreme Cold Weather System Generation III, M-1151 vehicles with special heating modifications, and improved lighting. The garrison, just coming out of minimal operational status following its selection to the Base Realignment and Closure list in 1998, has also improved the quality of life for Soldiers and their families over time by creating additional recreation facilities, new housing, an expansion to it's commissary, and other improvements.
Since 2004, the GMD Soldiers and system have stood ready for potential threats to the U.S., working closely with their stakeholders in U.S. Northern Command, SMDC and MDA conducting combatant command level and ballistic missile defense exercises. This readiness was tested and proven in 2006, 2009, and 2012 when North Korea launched its Taepodong 2 ICBMs.
Each instance, and every day, the Soldiers of the 100th MDB have been on guard for the homeland. They are truly 300 Soldiers defending 300 million Americans - or simply,