By Capt. Marion Jo NederhoedNovember 21, 2018
It was much more than just an Assumption of Command. The historic ceremony marked more firsts for Combined Joint Task Force (CTF) Defender located at Forward Operating Site (FOS) CP Carroll in South Korea.
On November 19, Lt. Col. John D. Wilson became the first officer to take command of the Joint Task Force. Additionally, CTF Defender is the first Combined Task Force commanded by a National Guard Officer.
"What a great day to be a Soldier serving in the Army's premier Air Defense Brigade," said 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Commander, Col. Richard W. Wright. "Today marks another historic milestone for the Dragon Brigade, the Air Defense Branch, and our Army as we continue to proudly serve the citizens of the Republic of Korea and the United States."
The ceremony serves as the next step to a fully integrated air and missile defense capability in support of the US/ROK Alliance. Reflecting back 18 months ago, in April of 2017, a second Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery deployed to defend against the ballistic missile threat of North Korea. D-2 Air Defense Artillery was the unit who answered the call and deployed to Seongju, South Korea amidst rising tensions between North and South Korea. The D-2 Air Defenders were the first THAAD battery to deploy to the ROK; achieving Initial Operating Capability (IOC), and changing the international narrative on ballistic missile defense on the Korean Peninsula.
The Dragon Brigade has been working toward this day for the past year. In early October 2017, D-2 assumed responsibilities of FOS Carroll and its air defense assets. D-2 reflagged under the 35th ADA on October 19, 2017. With the reflagging of D-2 a small, yet senior level staff was necessary to provide mission command for the Soldiers operating on FOS Carroll and CTF Defender. Since its initial deployment CTF Defender has grown and is not composed of elements from D-2 Battery, Echo 6-52 Battery, 304th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, a 12 person staff, and multiple other units from the Indo-PACOM region along with one battalion from the Republic of Korea Army.
"What Combined Task Force Defender does on a daily basis matters to our alliance, the people of South Korea and the United States, and - in fact - to the entire Indo-Pacific region," Wright said. "CTF Defender marked the first deployment of a THAAD Battery outside of the Continental United States and its Territories. It was the first unit to have successfully demonstrated THAAD and Patriot integration in an operational environment over a joint tactical network and CTF Defender were the first Soldiers to deploy and integrate a Counter Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) capability in the Republic of Korea."
This Assumption of Command Ceremony now becomes another historic moment for the unit with the appointment of its first commander and being commanded by a National Guard Officer. Lt. Col. Wilson has served as an Air Defense Officer his entire military career starting with his initial assignment at 5th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, Fort Bliss, Texas where he served as a Platoon Leader for Maintenance and Launcher Platoons and Battery Executive Officer. During his assignment, he deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in support of Operation Southern Watch.
Wilson had several other notable assignments prior to leaving active duty and joining the 263d Army Air and Missile Defense Command, South Carolina Army National Guard. In 2015, Wilson deployed to Qatar with the 32d Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC) and served as the Active Defense Chief in Support of Operation Spartan Shield. His next assignment was as the Deputy Area Air Defense Commander Coordination Officer and Operational Planner to US Air Force North at Tyndall Air Force Base.
"I know you're ready for arguably one of the most challenging and complex commands on the Korean Peninsula," Wright said in his remarks to Wilson. "There is a lot of uncertainty ahead, but without a doubt you are the right person at the right time to lead this great formation, and I know we can expect many more firsts from the Soldiers of CTF Defender."
Wilson said he is very excited about this tremendous opportunity to be the first commander of CTF Defender and serve in Korea. For the past five years he had been on active duty with the National Guard and it had provided him the opportunity to get back into the ADA community and build relationships.
"It's very unique to be a National Guard officer and serve in this capacity. This is a tremendous opportunity to represent the National Guard and what we can do with the active component force, and build that relationship and have that trust and confidence that we can work together," he said.
As he has progressed through the ranks he has gained experience through various deployments while working with other military forces and coalition partners. Wilson said this has provided a sound foundation for the mission in Korea where he will be working with an Alliance and our Korean partners.
"By working with other partners and building a unified team with a common purpose and common mission I have learned how to band together and move forward with others to accomplish a mission," he said. "These experiences have opened my mind to working with others who may do business differently and with different business rules."
Wilson said this is his first time in Korea other than coming to the peninsula for temporary duty and joint exercises. His mother is Korean and he is looking forward to the unique experience.
"I love really getting into the culture of wherever I travel," he said. "I like getting away from the Army post and trying different foods and really experiencing the culture."
Moving forward into the first days of his command Wilson said it is important that CTF Defender maintain its mission focus of being prepared to Fight Tonight.
"I want the Soldiers of CTF Defender to know that their leaders trust them and there needs to be mutual trust that their leaders are going to take care of them," he said. "Whether it's preparing them through training or personal issues or working through personal obstacles, I want them to know that their leaders care for them and that they are our main priority because without them we can't succeed."