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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Northcom Marks 10 Years Protecting U.S. Homeland

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2012 – Ten years ago today, still stinging from the devastating 9/11 terror attacks, the United States stood up U.S. Northern Command with one sole mission: to deter, prevent and defeat threats and aggression aimed at the continental United States, its territories and its interests.

The activation marked the first time since the days of George Washington that a single military commander was charged with protecting the U.S. homeland.

Air Force Gen. Ralph E. “Ed” Eberhart, Northcom’s first commander, formed a team focused on aerospace, land and sea defenses that also provided critical support for U.S. civil authorities in times of national need.

Even in its first year, while still building its staff organization and establishing mission plans and processes, Northcom was tested during a range of real-world challenges. Just one day after its standup, the new command responded when Hurricane Lilli struck the Gulf Coast with 100-mph winds that caused extensive damage.

Five months later, Northcom was called to action when the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere. The explosion killed seven astronauts and scattered debris from Dallas to Lake Charles, La.

That summer and fall, Northcom provided airborne firefighting capability during an intensive wildfire season in the western United States and disaster relief after Hurricane Isabel struck the eastern seaboard in September.

Since its establishment, Northcom has responded to hundreds of disasters, from hurricanes to wildfires or pandemic influenza outbreaks to an interspace bridge collapse. In 2010, it participated in Operation Unified Response following the Haiti earthquake and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

This summer, widespread wildfires in the West and Hurricane Isaac in late August dominated much of Northcom’s activities.

In declaring that Northcom had achieved full operational capability in 2003, on the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Eberhart told his command, “This is not an end state. This is, in fact, part of a journey. We’ll never truly reach full operational capability. We are always going to be striving to be better.”

Today, as Northcom commemorates its 10th anniversary, Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., its current commander, continues to build on that legacy.

Emphasizing the importance of Northcom’s mission partners in everything the command does, Jacoby laid out his priorities for the command:

-- Expand and strengthen trusted partnerships;

-- Advance and sustain the binational North American Aerospace Defense Command;

-- Gain and maintain all-domain situational awareness;

-- Advocate and develop capabilities in core mission areas to outpace all threats; and

-- Take care of people who represent the command’s foundation.

“Our vision is that, with our trusted partners, we will defend North America by outpacing all threats, maintaining faith with our citizens, and supporting them in their times of greatest need,” Jacoby told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March.

“We view our missions as a sacred trust by our governments and our citizens,” he said. “We appreciate the American people and their elected representatives in Congress and the White House rightly have high expectations of our ability to defend them here at home.”

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