Vigilant Shield Tests Homeland Defense Processes

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2011 — Navy ships, Army ground-based radar and mis­sile sys­tems and Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard air­craft have descend­ed on Key West, Fla., for the field train­ing por­tion of U.S. North­ern Command’s annu­al home­land defense exer­cise that kicked off this week.

Northcom’s Vig­i­lant Shield 12 exer­cise launched Nov. 1 and con­tin­ues through Nov. 10, com­bin­ing field and com­mand post exer­cis­es to train North­com and North Amer­i­can Aero­space Defense Com­mand staffs in home­land defense and home­land secu­ri­ty process­es, Lt. Alain Blondin of the Cana­di­an navy, a com­mand spokesman, told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice.

“The sce­nario for the exer­cise is based on poten­tial mil­i­tary threats to the Unit­ed States and Cana­da that require exten­sive mil­i­tary plan­ning to pro­vide a range of mil­i­tary options to our nation­al lead­er­ship,” said Army Gen. Charles H. Jaco­by Jr., North­com and NORAD com­man­der, in a blog announc­ing the exer­cise.

Northcom’s oper­a­tions cen­ter at Peter­son Air Force Base, Colo., work­ing in coor­di­na­tion with a joint deploy­able inte­grat­ed air and mis­sile defense sys­tem and ele­ments of a logis­tics sup­port facil­i­ty dis­patched to Naval Air Sta­tion Key West, are test­ing their capa­bil­i­ties against sim­u­lat­ed ene­my attacks, Blondin said.

Although most of the sce­nar­ios are clas­si­fied, Blondin said, they will involve “the full spec­trum of threats,” includ­ing sim­u­lat­ed ter­ror­ist attacks.

“It’s an old Army truth that you have to train like you fight, and the exer­cise sce­nario will undoubt­ed­ly put us through our paces,” Jaco­by said. This exer­cise will not only train us for that worst-case sit­u­a­tion, but it will also aid our plan­ners in prepar­ing for it.”

“Home­land defense is our most impor­tant mis­sion, and it’s a sacred trust we share with the cit­i­zens of the Unit­ed States and Cana­da,” he said. “VS 12 will make us bet­ter and, most impor­tant­ly, make our coun­tries safer in the long run.”

To increase the real­ism of the sce­nar­ios and test the abil­i­ty of fed­er­al, state and inter­na­tion­al part­ners to pro­vide a syn­chro­nized response to home­land threats, Vig­i­lant Shield plan­ners have pig­gy­backed on oth­er train­ing exer­cis­es.

For exam­ple, rou­tine train­ing flights under way across the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., region are test­ing Northcom’s and NORAD’s abil­i­ty to coor­di­nate with the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty and Fed­er­al Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion, among oth­er fed­er­al agen­cies.

This year’s Vig­i­lant Shield is being linked to two oth­er con­cur­rent exer­cis­es: Vig­i­lant Guard Ari­zona and Deter­mined Drag­on. Vig­i­lant Guard Ari­zona, a joint region­al exer­cise spon­sored by North­com and the Nation­al Guard Bureau, is designed to improve mil­i­tary process­es, pro­ce­dures and coor­di­na­tion with state and local respon­ders, offi­cials said. Cana­da Com­mand is con­duct­ing Deter­mined Drag­on to test the readi­ness of Cana­di­an forces at the nation­al lev­el.

Jaco­by empha­sized the impor­tance of a strong exer­cise pro­gram to main­tain readi­ness, not­ing Win­ston Churchill’s famous quote, “Every­where men pray for peace, but pre­pare for war.”

“I firm­ly believe that quote accu­rate­ly reflects how the men and women of these com­mands go at their busi­ness each and every day, and that’s why it’s impor­tant as we look at a decreas­ing mil­i­tary bud­get to main­tain and sus­tain crit­i­cal train­ing exer­cis­es like Vig­i­lant Shield,” he said. “Every time you exer­cise, you learn some­thing new.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)