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U.S. Northern Command celebrates 13th birthday

U.S. Northern Command celebrates 13 years.

U.S. Northern Command celebrates 13 years.

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- On Oct. 1, 2002, the Department of Defense activated U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, Colorado; so today, Oct. 1, 2015, USNORTHCOM is 13 years old.

Like many new teenagers, we've had some challenges but have matured along the way.   

The first thing we had to learn, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, was how to defend the Homefront on the land, on the sea, and in the air. For the latter, USNORTHCOM was able to partner with its senior, bi-national sister command, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, as Canada and the United States had been accomplishing this mission since 1958.

Next on the syllabus, especially after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, was how to best provide military assistance to civil authorities responding to disasters. We have since honed our skills at partnering with local, state, and federal authorities. Also of critical importance was partnership with each state's National Guard, whose leadership could serve during a crisis as dual-status commanders for both National Guard and federal forces through two separate chains of command.

Then as our nation's relationship matured with Mexico, USNORTHCOM learned to partner respectfully with our neighbor to the south, particularly given our nations' contentious history.  We increased military-to-military engagements with our Mexican counterparts, sharing specialized training, unique equipment and logistical expertise for the fight against transnational criminal organizations, such as drug cartels.

So on its 13th birthday, what has USNORTHCOM learned? It has learned to defend the homeland of the United States. It has learned to provide effective defense support to civil authorities that is neither a second too early nor a minute too late. And it has learned to cooperate with our neighbors to enhance everyone's security. But most importantly, it has learned it can do none of this by itself. USNORTHCOM has learned it needs partners -- and that is a pretty mature understanding for someone who just became a teenager!

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