By Capt. Richard Dickson (108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade)June 26, 2017
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, M.D. - As a calm breeze flowed over the bay, a quiet ceremony took place to mark the end of a little known operational exercise in the National Capital Region.
Alpha Battery, 3rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, officially inactivated June 15, 2017, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The battery had been located at APG for almost three years.
"The lessons we learned, the relationships we built, and the capability we provided will be our lasting legacy," said Capt. Sam Horwitz, outgoing commander of Battery A.
A-3 ADA was reconstituted in 2010 in Utah to support the testing and development of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System. The project's testing and development ended after four years and the unit was reassigned to APG in support of Operation Noble Eagle, a homeland defense mission.
Designed to provide eyes over the National Capital Region and defend against cruise missile threats, the JLENS was more than a blimp that sat stationary. Soldiers worked endlessly to establish standards and maintain skillsets on unfamiliar equipment in order to achieve mission success.
Within weeks of the inactivation, most of the remaining Soldiers will be sent to other units and return to conducting operations in their original Military Occupational Specialty. Some duties include vital aspects of air defense, such as operating Patriot missile systems and conducting short-range air defense operations.
"Over the past year A-3 has successfully leveraged the Spartan Brigade at Fort Bragg to get Soldiers back on Patriot equipment in anticipation of being assigned back into the force," said Col. Joseph McCallion, Jr., commander of 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade. "Maintaining their core MOS competency was so critical since these Soldiers had spent the last years learning the JLENS system."
With operational tempo slowing prior to the inactivation date, Soldiers were also able to expand
their skillsets and take instructional courses on other equipment within the air defense branch.
"A-3 sent others to the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system course so they could be assigned to THAAD units, which we see in the news today are in such high demand in multiple areas of responsibility," said McCallion, Jr.
The successful mission did not come without its challenges. Most notably, a portion of the system, the Fire Control Radar, broke away from its mooring station and brought the entire exercise to a halt. The story made headlines throughout the region in October of 2015.
"Although that equipment failure was not due to Soldier error, A-3 showcased their leadership and professionalism through the recovery operations, numerous investigations and then through the ultimate decision to ground, deflate, pack up and store the surveillance aerostat," said McCallion, Jr.
The Secretary of Defense gave the official order for inactivation on July 8, 2016, signifying the end of the program and, for now, the unit. The unit has a history that dates back to 1799.
It is unclear if the equipment will be used in the future, but the air defense community will be ready if it gets the call to reactivate the JLENS system.
"When Battery A is called back to service, the next team will build on the history we contributed to, and if they work hard and prove their professionalism, they too will be a part of something very special," said Horwitz.