Canadian Detachment helps support U.S. Air Defense

  • Published
  • By Mary McHale
  • AFNORTH Public Affairs
As part of NORAD's commitment to providing aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America, many Canadian military members find themselves assigned to or training with the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington.

According to Canadian Capt. Kevin Long, 51st Aerospace Control and Warning Operational Training Squadron Senior Director and Assistant Officer in Charge, Weapons, the Canadian Armed Forces detachment members serve in a variety of roles within WADS.

"Many work on the operations floor as air weapons officers, air surveillance technicians and mission crew commanders," Long said. "Additionally, several members also work in staff positions including the Canadian Detachment Commander, LCol Mark Roberts. Moreover, with the exception of one member, our chief clerk, all of the members of the Canadian Detachment at JBLM hold operational qualifications within the sector and fully participate in accomplishing the mission."

Tasked with the mission of using radar and communications systems to monitor air traffic from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean and from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, members of the detachment work with members of the Washington Air National Guard.

Those assigned to WADS come from all over Canada, Long said.

"We have members here from the west coast of British Columbia, central and southern Ontario, straight through to the east coast and their backgrounds are as varied as the individuals themselves."

In addition to permanently assigned Canadians, students come through the sector for training as well.

"What is most significant is the opportunity to train with multiple platforms in a high ops environment," said Canadian Capt. Jason Gauthier, 51st Squadron Standards Officer. "We are able to teach and qualify several students in a short amount of time due to the number of missions we can control here in America. Students retain information better when there is less time between missions and being here at WADS provides us this opportunity. We gain valuable training and experience without sacrificing the quality of controller that is produced at the end."

The standards officer went on to say the experience of being at WADS has been enjoyable all around.

"This experience does so much for our new aerospace controllers," he said. "The experience really opens their eyes to what is out there and it's very satisfying to provide the students with that experience."

During their three weeks of training at WADS, the group from the 51st Operational Training Squadron at the Canadian Air Defence Sector (CADS) in North Bay Canada also had the opportunity to visit the 142nd Fighter Wing in Portland, Ore. Long said the purpose of the trip, which also included detachment members, was to gain a first-hand understanding of their mission.

"Since the fighter wing is one of the many units that regularly work with WADS, the ability to debrief in person and see what we do leads to smoother operations and greater synergy," Long said. "For the students who participated, they gained a greater understanding of what goes into each mission from a pilot's perspective when in the end makes them stronger controllers."

WADS and the Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) in Rome, N.Y. have been successfully supporting CADS training for more than 10 years. Now, as the Canadian Detachment Commander at WADS," Roberts said, "Over the years CADS has consistently received first-rate proficiency and initial qualification training at WADS and EADS. I am always impressed with the outstanding support we receive from our American colleagues. They understand our needs and make every effort to ensure our training is successful."