The U.S. Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization has trained and participated in a Dec. 9 graduation for the first foreign military to purchase and operate the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

Eighty-one officers and airmen from the United Arab Emirates military trained for 32 weeks under the tutelage of a seven-man USA-SATMO Technical Assistance Fielding Team at Fort Bliss, Texas.

"This graduation is historic because it marks the culmination of the first foreign military to train on this very sophisticated weapon system," UAE TAFT Deputy Capt. Joseph McCarthy said.

THAAD is an antiballistic missile system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles using a hit-to-kill approach. Known as one of the most advanced missile defense systems in the world, the purchase of and training on THAAD will greatly enhance UAE's air defense capabilities.

USA-SATMO is a subordinate organization to the U.S. Army Security Assistance Command. Through USA-SATMO's security assistance training and USASAC's foreign military sales, the combatant commands help build eligible international partner capacity to provide both interoperability and an independent capability in their areas of responsibility, which is vital to achieving U.S. national security objectives.

McCarthy said before the UAE students began the intense training, they attended a 28-week English language course in San Antonio, Texas.

"The fact that the airmen received such high marks, achieving outstanding proficiency on such a high weapon system in a second language is nothing short of impressive," he said.

After completing the six-month language course, UAE airmen started the eight-month THAAD course, which kicked off with classroom instruction, taught by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon contractors. TAFT members, all of whom have a unique expertise in operating the THAAD system, sat in on the classes to build relationships and assist with teaching.

During the last three months of the course, the students conducted practical exercises and hands-on collective training with TAFT members at White Sands Missile Range in neighboring New Mexico.

"All four UAE THAAD site crews successfully integrated the weapon system as a battery," McCarthy said. "Moreover, they qualified to the highest level of Air Battle simulations."

He described the UAE airmen as extremely professional and eager to learn.

"They are clearly committed and take pride in having been entrusted as the first foreign military to own and operate the THAAD system," he said.

The THAAD TAFT led by Maj. Lamarius Workman is conducting split-base operations. McCarthy said the Battery A team recently deployed to UAE and continues to train the graduated unit. Battery A training will culminate with final collective certifications this spring.

"Soon, the Battery A TAFT will advise the Emirati officers and airmen as they historically employ the THAAD system for the first time in their country," McCarthy said.

A subsequent TAFT, the Battery B team, is training the second of two UAE THAAD batteries at Fort Bliss. By this summer, all 12 members of the USA-SATMO TAFT will be deployed to the UAE to train and advise both THAAD batteries.