NORTHCOM Unit Recognized for Homeland Security Efforts
By Anthony J. Falvo
Special to American Forces Press Service
NORFOLK, Va., Apr. 1, 2004 For its accomplishments and contributions to Operation Noble Eagle and the overall security of the United States, Standing Joint Force Headquarters-Homeland Security, a component command of U.S. Northern Command, received the Joint Meritorious Unit Award and the Global War on Terrorism Medal in a March 26 ceremony here.
Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart (center), commander North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, places the Global War on Terrorism campaign streamer on the Standing Joint Force Headquarters- Homeland Security command colors during a March 26 ceremony in Norfolk, Va. Assisting Eberhart are the standing joint force headquarters commander and command sergeant major, Army Maj. Gen. Russel L. Honor, left, and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Lamon. Photo by Anthony Falvo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The honors, presented by Air Force Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, commander of NORTHCOM and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, are the first garnered by the command.
"I think your leadership has it exactly right: 'See first, understand first, and act first,'" said Eberhart, referring to the command's motto. "Directly after 9/11, we concentrated on the investigation, and the clean-up after the disaster. Yet, when the smoke clears, we all know that the real goal should be to deter, prevent and defeat further threats to the homeland."
The standing joint force headquarters serves as NORTHCOM's homeland security component, coordinating the land and maritime defense of the continental United States while planning and integrating the full spectrum of military support to lead federal agencies.
"A big part of this job that we all share is that it's not a job, it's a passion," said the unit's commander, Army Maj. Gen. Russel L. Honor. "This is all about what we signed up for when we spoke those words, 'I will support and defend the constitution of the United States, against all enemies foreign and domestic, and I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and those officers appointed over me.' This is what we swore to, and when the American people need us at home, this is what we do. We live our oath."
The award of the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, command officials said, is the culmination of dedicated mission support and proactive vigilance. The unit contributed to DoD transformation by coordinating and executing the stand-up of NORTHCOM. It made direct contributions to Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom, two presidential State of the Union addresses, the 2002 Washington, D.C., sniper crisis mission and the 2003 space shuttle Columbia recovery mission.
The headquarters also supported various national special security plans and events and national critical infrastructure security plans, and provided natural disaster and wildfire support and counter-drug operations and training.
The newly approved Global War on Terrorism Medal represents the command's participation in support of the global war on terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001, within the continental United States. Because the headquarters serves as a NORTHCOM component, the command was in the unique position to make direct contributions to the ongoing success of Operation Noble Eagle.
Originally born as a homeland security directorate under U.S. Joint Forces Command in response to the events of 9/11 and established as a command in February 2002, the unit ultimately realigned under NORTHCOM when the secretary of defense directed changes to the department's unified command plan in April 2002.
"There is no doubt among the armed services, among our partners in homeland security and our other federal partners all the way down to the first responders who the 'pros' are in terms of homeland security, where the expertise resides and what organization paved the way and was the pioneer of homeland security in the early days after 9/11," said Eberhart.
Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Lamon praised the work that the military and civilian members of his command have done in support of the defense of the homeland.
"The men and women of the command, both military and civilian, are without a doubt the champions of our success," said Lamon. "They know what it is like to stand guard in the middle of the night while others sleep. They understand the meaning of hardship; standing watch for some, far from loved ones. Yet they endure, and it is this devotion to duty that gives us strength. It inspires today's military men and women to serve, while inspiring others to contribute in some way to make a difference."
"I believe that we have not had another attack on America since 9/11 because of the actions that we took in its aftermath, and the actions we continue to take today," said Eberhart. "Standing Joint Force Headquarters-Homeland Security has been the centerpiece of this nation's effort to ensure our safety, and we thank you."
(Anthony J. Falvo is assigned to the Standing Joint Force Headquarters-Homeland Security public affairs office.)