Every morning I sit in my office preparing for another day of meetings, briefings, endless taskers, and a multitude of emails that never stop arriving. Just over a month ago, my office was the Director’s chair in the Missile Defense Element at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, executing the mission and leading my crew in the defense of the homeland from an ICBM attack. Life was good, so what changed?
I became the first active-duty officer selected to be the 100th Missile Defense Brigade’s Operations officer in charge, and I bring a different perspective to this job. I’m one of roughly a dozen active duty Soldiers currently assigned to the 100th Missile Defense Brigade, a unit primarily comprised of active National Guard Soldiers. A unit that I didn’t even know existed until I received orders to report to Colorado Springs. I’m often asked what it’s like to be in this unit. I think the question stems from both the unique mission and being a Regular Army Soldier in a National Guard unit. So what can I tell you?
In many ways, it feels special. This unit is full of Soldiers and civilians who care about the mission and understand the importance of what we do. There are so few of us truly tasked with defending the homeland and all of its 300 million-plus citizens that we embrace the 100th Missile Defense Brigade's unofficial slogan of "The 300 defending 300 million." There is a level of pride here that is different from any other unit I have served in because of this mission. That pride results in a drive for excellence because failure is truly unacceptable. You must have an understanding that your crew of five Soldiers and a crew of five Soldiers at the Fire Direction Center at Fort Greely, Alaska, are the shield keeping our nation, our friends, and our families safe at any given moment in time. We take pride in ensuring we are as well-trained and ready to perform the mission as we can possibly be.
In many ways, it’s extremely challenging. While on crew, I was responsible for my crew’s training and readiness to execute the mission 24/7/365. I was completing gunnery certifications with my crew and on alert operating and sustaining the most complex weapon system ever built – Ground-based Midcourse Defense, often called “GMD.”
Now I am managing operations for the brigade in a COVID environment. I am responsible for ensuring that the mission is accomplished, Soldiers are trained and ready, and planning the significant multitude of efforts affecting the future operations of the brigade. Anyone who watches the news knows that the threat we are designed to counter continues to evolve. So does GMD. We are not only looking at today’s threat, but we are prepared for tomorrow’s threat and are preparing for the next few decades’ threat. When the GMD weapon system is updated, we update our tactics, techniques, and procedures to best apply it to meet the commander’s intent, which simply put, is to defeat any ballistic missile threat to our homeland.
In many ways, it’s very different. On active duty, Soldiers are used to working with different people all the time. We will have opportunities to work with familiar faces at different locations in different jobs over the lifespan of a career, but most likely it will not be consecutively done. It is not uncommon for National Guard Soldiers in the 100th MDB to have been working together for more than a decade. Air Defense Artillery is a small community of its own. GMD is an even smaller fraction of that community. Positions and leadership may change, but there’s a familiarity among the Soldiers here that rarely exists on the active-duty side.
Some of my National Guard counterparts have said the GMD mission may be better suited to the Regular Army, but I disagree. I think the ability to build longevity, and therefore subject matter expertise within the program is vital to the success of the mission. The cohort that is able to perform this mission is so small that it couldn’t really be a functional area on the active side and would be much more difficult to sustain without tenured expertise. I think the National Guard is exactly where this mission belongs.
Every evening I leave the office without having accomplished everything I wanted to that day. There is always more to be done and there is no end in sight. The crazy part is that I like it that way and I feel lucky to be here. I am part of something special here. While GMD is rarely in the limelight, not very well known, and even less understood, it remains extremely relevant in today’s world.
Tim Biart, LTC, AD