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UAE graduates second class of THAAD air defenders

Graduating Class 15-002 of United Arab Emirates Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Operator/Maintainer course pose for a photo in front of the Old Ironsides and Fort Bliss Museum following a graduation rehearsal ceremony, May 17. This is the second THAAD graduating class from UAE, which made air defense history as the first nation other than the United States to gain the enhanced capabilities of THAAD to protect its nation from ballistic missile threats. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matt Meadows, 32nd AAMDC Public Affairs.

Graduating Class 15-002 of United Arab Emirates Terminal High Altitude Area Defense Operator/Maintainer course pose for a photo in front of the Old Ironsides and Fort Bliss Museum following a graduation rehearsal ceremony, May 17. This is the second THAAD graduating class from UAE, which made air defense history as the first nation other than the United States to gain the enhanced capabilities of THAAD to protect its nation from ballistic missile threats. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matt Meadows, 32nd AAMDC Public Affairs.

By Sgt. 1st Class Matt Meadows, 32nd AAMDC Public Affairs:

The United Arab Emirates made air defense history late last year as the first nation outside of the United States to gain the enhanced capabilities of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense to protect its nation from ballistic missile threats.

Sixty-five Emirati air defenders of Class 15-002 graduated from the foreign THAAD Operator/Maintainer course here, May 18.

Brig. Gen. Donald C. Fryc, now former commander, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, hosted the graduation, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gerardo Dominguez. senior enlisted adviser, 32nd AAMDC, was guest speaker. During a social event before the graduation, Fryc addressed the UAE air defenders and their supporters, who included contractors and U.S. Army civilian and military personnel.

“Thanks to everybody who played a role, no matter how small or how big, in this, yet again, historical achievement by our UAE brothers tomorrow as we celebrate the improvement in … air (and) missile defense of their homeland,” Fryc said. “And it really is that big of a deal …. Think of where you have come, not only as a country but a country with capability that really stands as powerful as any other in the CENTCOM AOR.” (U.S. Central Command area of responsibility).

The UAE marked its 44th year anniversary as a country Dec. 2, 2015, their National Day. As an example of just how far its air defense has advanced, the UAE gained the Patriot missile system in 2012 and have already conducted a combined joint live-fire exercise in 2014. Following the LFX, UAE sent Patriot missile batteries to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Yemen to provide protection for coalition assets against ballistic missile threats in the region.

In his remarks to the graduating class, Dominguez addressed the officers, noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted Soldiers separately. He advised the officers to lean on their NCOs because NCOs support and guide officers with their wealth of knowledge and experience.

“Since 2009, I have served numerous times in the Emirates providing air defense coverage of critical assets. The worldwide security landscape today is the most tenuous it has been in decades, especially around the Emirates,” Dominguez said. “Many of their Patriot units are combat tested forces that have deployed rapidly and assumed missions in austere locations.”

Dominguez told UAE THAAD Class 15-002 he hopes to serve with them in the future and thanked them for their friendship. He said to enjoy the moment and to be proud of their accomplishment but not to “savor it too long, as our enemies will not afford you that luxury”.

“You, the officers, NCOs and airmen that sit in front of us have arrived during a time of extraordinary challenge,” Dominguez told the graduating class. “You are the best and the brightest, and you have worked tirelessly over the past few months to master the THAAD system. You performed admirably and represented your country well, performing better than any class before.”

Maj. Hamed Khamis Al Kaabi was the Distinguished Honor Graduate for UAE THAAD Class 15-002, with a grade point average of 100. Other individuals receiving special recognition for achieving the highest averages in their respective courses are Sgt. Al Nuaimi Khalfan Mohammed (radar), 2nd Lt. Saeed Al Mansorri (TFCC), and Pfc. Eisa Al Suwaidi, (launcher).

The UAE was the first Gulf Cooperation Council partner to possess an upper-tier ballistic missile defense capability and the first non-U.S. unit in the world to possess the THAAD weapon system. THAAD is a ballistic missile defense system designed to intercept and destroy short- and medium-range ballistic missiles – inside or outside the atmosphere – during the final, or terminal, phase of flight.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Spencer Knight is the technical assistance field team, Battery B, chief of training and foreign military adviser, and is assigned to United States Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“These certifications have enabled them to protect critical assets in defense of their homeland,” Knight said. “This is crucial in establishing their layered ballistic missile defense; and while Battery A has worked through the interoperability and fire control pieces in establishing THAAD in UAE, Battery B will be instrumental in providing additional coverage of UAE assets.”

This marks the first time the higher echelon unit in UAE will control two THAAD batteries and will be a focal point when establishing how they will operate with Patriot and HAWK missile systems within UAE, Knight explained. “Their robust missile defense systems in an operational environment – in addition to the U.S. systems – will no doubt provide vital lessons learned and continue to strengthen the already rich partnership forged,” he said.

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