The 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade hosted its 2018 Missile Defender of the Year banquet, November 16, at Osan Air Base, South Korea. The banquet recognized the outstanding achievements of air defense teams from all over South Korea. Brigadier General Michael Morrissey, commander of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command attended as guest speaker.

"You, the soldiers and airmen, maintain joint and combined 'Fight Tonight' readiness across this great country," Morrissey told attendees. "The winners recognized tonight symbolize that readiness. They have demonstrated their commitment to excellence and to our profession."

Twenty-six air defenders, comprised of eight teams, represented the Dragon Brigade as 2018 MDOY winners. They are:

Best Information and Coordination Central Crew: 1st Lt. Nathen Jackson, Sgt. Joseph Wuebbles, and Cpl. Austin Wecker.

Best Tactical Command Station Crew: Pfc. Leo Mangram, Pfc. Austin Porter, Pfc. Coty Gierisch, and Pfc. Adelo Fields.

Best Engagement Control Station Crew: 2nd Lt. Samual Santa-Rita, Spc. Mitchell Santiago, and Pfc. Justin Angier.

Best Battery Command Post Crew: Spc. Brandon Mitchell and Pfc. Matthew Pasier.

Best Launcher Reload Crew: Staff Sgt. Raymel Shaw, Spc. Jacob Samtn, Pfc. Devin Weinrich, Pvt. Luis Baez, and Pvt. Gary Grimstad.

Best Terminal High Altitude Area Defense TFCC Crew: 2nd Lt. Kelsey Burns, Pfc. Patrick Griffin, and Pfc. Jacob Kuchar.

Best Short-Range Avenger Crew: Spc. Kyle McBride and Pfc. Justin Kunkle.

Best Sentinel Radar Crew: Spc. Kyle Robinson, Pfc. J'Ahntae Smith, Pfc. Sithisack Janya, and Pfc. Jordan Hall.

The above crews from across 35th ADA Brigade competed for top honors, over a four-day challenge, October 15 - 18. The brigade-level competition consisted of air battles, launcher reloads, written exam, board, hands-on maintenance evaluation, and a Backbone Challenge obstacle course. The brigade's 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, and 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, conducted evaluations over a month's time to determine who would represent them at the brigade-level competition.

"This type of competition shows just how well the crews are trained and their knowledge level," said 35th ADA Brigade Standardization Officer, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mark Theriot. "It also gives the commander a snap shot of what they really have with these Soldiers. It brings all of the best crews to one arena and allows them to display their talents for the battalion and brigade command teams to see firsthand the hard work and dedication these soldiers give day to day."

Theriot and his fellow evaluators were very pleased with the performance and efforts they witnessed from the various teams. The competition, he said, reminds us that there is truly greatness amongst us; that regardless of rank or experience, each member of a team contributes in their own unique way. He said the board provided specific cases in point.

"The crew was asked about the story of Saint Barbara, and this young man, (a private first class) is maybe 19-years-old and told the story like he was there! Later on, there was a crew with nothing but PFC's and the tactical knowledge they put forth was beyond any board members expectations," Theriot said.

Air defenders from the U.S. Air Force and Republic of Korea's 2nd ADA Brigade were also recognized.

Recognized from the USAF 607th Air Operations Center are: Capt. Anthony Carillo, Chief of Space Operations; and Maj. Gloria Ramirez-Hickey, Senior Air Defense Officer.

Recognized from ROK 2nd ADA Brigade are: 1st Lt. Kwon Oh Sung, 1st Lt. Soon Sung Do, Senior Master Sgt. Lee Gil Ju, Master Sgt. Lee Jin Mok, Master Sgt. Jang Su Hee, and Tech. Sgt. Noh Su Hwan.

A special award was created in honor of Lt. Gen. Thomas Vandal, the former Eighth Army and 2nd Infantry Division commander, and a champion for air defense artillery on the Korean Peninsula, who passed away October 7. First Lieutenant Nathen Jackson and Staff Sgt. Phillip Toole, tactical director assistant, 2-1 ADA Battalion received the honorary award.

"I've been here for a little more than two years so I was here when Lt. Gen. Vandal was here, and he led the push for air defense on the peninsula. He always made sure we were taken care of," Jackson said.
Jackson said he views the MDOY as a great opportunity for his Soldiers to show leadership how hard they work day in and day out, and the competition promotes growth for the entire unit.

"I really like seeing my Soldiers succeed; having that sense of accomplishment that they can go forward with and motivate their peers," he said.