After months of hard training and expectation, the rubber finally hit the road in Turkey for the 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
With a formal transfer of authority in the southeastern Turkey city of Gaziantep, Dec. 13, the formidable responsibilities of safeguarding civilians from airborne threats now becomes the daily mission for nearly 300 air defense Soldiers out of Rhine Ordnance Barracks in Germany.
“At the end of the day, never forget that there are more than a million people in the city of Gaziantep depending on you for protection from ballistic missiles across the border,” said Col. Greg Brady, 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command commander, who had traveled with numerous United States Army Europe representatives, including Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, the U.S. Army Europe commander, to attend the event.
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Lisa Bartel, 5-7 ADA commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Stephen Burnley, the senior enlisted adviser for 5-7 ADA, uncased their unit colors, signaling the official changing of the guard. The ballistic missile defense responsibilities in southeastern Turkey now assumed by 5-7 ADA had previously been held by the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, from Fort Sill, Okla.
The NATO-sanctioned mission in Turkey, expected to last up to one year for the 5-7 ADA contingent, includes air defense forces from The Netherlands and Germany. The NATO countries have been assisting the Turkish government in protecting civilians from foreign missile threats. Such collaboration is neither new or unwelcome, said Bartel.
“We are here for a tactical ballistic missile defense, and we look forward to working with all our partners,” she said.
That theme of teamwork and camaraderie across not just different U.S. Army units, but international partners was readily acknowledged by Brady.
“Our continued commitment to this NATO mission is stronger than ever,” said Brady, adding that Turkish assistance on deployment matters had been invaluable and much appreciated.
Multiple Turkish news outlets were present to cover the event, highlighting further the importance of the air defense mission. For many of the 5-7 ADA Soldiers, establishing a daily routine in the middle of the holiday season away from their families may take some getting used to. As difficult as that may be, however, it won’t prevent them from taking care of the most important piece of business, according to one leading authority.
“Protecting Gaziantep is our mission,” said Burnley.