Once a year, various branches across the Army visit the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, to participate in Branch Week. Through strict travel safety measures for COVID-19, air defenders participated in the recruiting event Aug. 31 to Sept. 4.
The seasoned air defenders talked about the importance of the branch in today’s modern operations. They answered the questions of cadets who are getting ready to finalize their rankings on which branch they want to be assigned. In addition to personnel, the Air Defense Artillery displayed a Patriot and an Avenger Launcher. Cadets had the opportunity to climb into the turret of the Avenger and engage targets with a Stinger Troop Proficiency Trainer.
"The Army's Talent-based Branching Model emphasizes a cadet preference and a good fit between the cadet's talents and the unique needs of individual branches,” said Lt. Col. Mike Yund, Office Chief of Air Defense Artillery director. “For cadets, information is crucial in helping them determine their branch preferences. Branch Week allows us to educate cadets on the roles of the branch and the outstanding opportunities for young leaders in the Air Defense Artillery. I think cadets immediately recognize the unique nature of this branch when they speak with us."
Lt. Gen. Daniel Karbler, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command commanding general, mentored and talked to cadets and air defenders while visiting the ADA equipment displays.
“I had the opportunity to talk to many cadets over the past two days and I emphasized how critically important their role is as a junior officer in an ADA battery,” said Karbler. “I talk about the responsibility that ADA second lieutenants have and how many of them are responsible for the defense on an entire country.”
Maj. Kimberly Kopack is an air defender and is currently assigned at West Point as the assistant course instructor for the Superintendent’s Capstone Course titled MX400, Officer Stuff. Kopack was a battery commander for B Battery, 1st Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery and for B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery. In addition to her command time, she was an ADA Captain’s Career Course instructor at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
“ADA gave me a great opportunity to see the value of the geopolitical side of Army operations. I switched branches because the mission we have is so great in responsibility and magnitude that it affects how countries have conversations with each other,” said Kopack. “I wanted to find an opportunity to teach and meet young leaders at the point of selecting a branch. I wanted to help the branch find these leaders with critical thinking skills, who can brief and take on the challenges that lead to these great responsibilities.”
ADA Soldiers participated in one of Kopack’s class discussions on developing an effective platoon leader, platoon sergeant-relationship. Sgt. 1st Class Terry Rhinehart from the Office Chief of Air Defense Artillery, and Staff Sgt. Juan Gonzalez from C Battery, 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery, shared their platoon sergeant experiences with cadets on handling leadership challenges they faced throughout their careers.
2nd Lt. Leara Shumate from 3rd Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery, answered cadet questions on how she interacts with her platoon sergeant and she shared her excitement of being selected as a platoon leader for an Iron Dome Battery.
Second Lt. Vaniah Mack, platoon leader, 5th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery, participated in a Profession of Arms panel offered during branch week.
“I branched ADA primarily because I love the mission statement that we are protecting Soldiers and key-assets from air threats, said Mack. “The branch is growing rapidly, so there are a lot of opportunities for new officers, and I like how females have been integrated for decades.”
Karbler said the responsibility in the Air Defense Branch is not shared among a lot of the other branches.
“If you endeavor to take on the role and responsibility of a branch that trusts you, then air defense artillery is the choice for you,” he said.