KATTERBACH KASERNE, GERMANY - Joint Force interoperability, high academic demands and participating in virtual air battles, were some of the challenges faced by Maj. Adam Williams and Maj. Keith Phelan, 678th Air Defense Artillery Brigade (ADA BDE), South Carolina National Guard, recent graduates of the Air Defense Artillery Fire Control Officers (ADAFCO) course, Kirkland, Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico, June, 2018.
The ADAFCO is a position that was created during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF 2003) after there were blue on blue (friendly) fratricides. These ADAFCO's are designed to manage multiple battalions of Patriot fire units and protect friendly assets. There was a need to bring the human element back into the decision making process and to decrease the chances of friendly on friendly events to happen.
The school was comprised of 12 attendees and focused on Air Battle Management as well as becoming an expert in all things Air Defense.
Phelan and Williams finished in the top three of the class.
Phelan graduated as the Honor Graduate, while Williams is the first non-prior service M-Day National Guard soldier to have completed this course.
"The top four people in the class were people from either the 678th ADA BDE or the 10th AAMDC," stated Phelan. "I think it is impressive when National Guard guys are competing at the same level as the active duty guys. It shows well for the Guard."
"The second week of the course was the most interesting, in that we were taught about several Air Defense weapon systems," remarked Phelan. "In fact, we did not just learn about the Army assets, but also the platforms the Marine Corps, the Navy and what the Air Force has."
Currently the National Guard does not have Patriots in their arsenal. The systems requires constant maintenance and day to day work to maintain operational status. However, the National Guard ADA BDE's have the responsibility to be able to manage Patriot battalions.
"One of the most complex and intriguing portions of the school environment was to work alongside of our Air Force counterparts," both Williams and Phelan discussed. "The Air Force does not know a lot about air defense systems (surface-to-air defense systems), but they do know the air platforms and we learned how to work seamlessly and rapidly with them."
"Protecting our own aircraft and our own units, as well as being able to engage unfriendly threats, is a main priority," added Williams in regards to the many different platforms.
Currently, the 678th ADA BDE is standing up the first Air Defense Brigade in the European theater since the stand down of the cold war (nearly 30 years ago), at Katterbach Kaserne, Germany. The brigade is subordinate to the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) and provides command to the 5-7 ADA BN, Baumholder, Germany.
"At the brigade level, the ADAFCO is part of the Modified Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE). This position gives us a lot more knowledge when it comes to how we plan and how we conduct air defense operations," remarked Phelan.
The Air Defense community is looking to increase their number of qualified ADAFCO's for deployments and the tasking of air defenders throughout the world. Making the ADAFCO course available to Officers and Warrants and the ADAFCA's, their NCO counterparts, is a priority.
Planning for the future missions will be vital for the changing global situations where the ADAFCO is needed. Knowing how to integrate with other systems and services will continue to drive the importance of this school and MOS.
"My role in the brigade and with the 263rd AAMDC Anderson, SC, requires that we have Patriot knowledge to integrate these systems into defense designs and battle plans," commented Williams. "The 263rd has been seeking and now by having to two of us (Williams and Phelan) gain this knowledge, is a win-win for not only for the brigade, but for the 263rd AAMDC."
"In general I thought it was a great course," Phelan stated. "Being able to work with an actual Control and Reporting Center (CRC) Air Force crew was an awesome experience and was a great opportunity."