While many know the Coast Guard protects the waterways surrounding Washington, D.C., many may not know that a group of highly trained and skilled aircrews are responsible for protecting our nation’s capital as well – from the air.
The Coast Guard’s National Capitol Region Air Defense Facility, which is supported with both permanent crews and temporarily assigned aircrews from nearby Air Station Atlantic City, New Jersey, is the nation’s only helicopter alert facility in the country.
The primary mission for these crews? To protect the national capital region by intercepting low and slow flying aircraft which encroach on Washington’s special flight rules area, which extends in a 30-mile ring surrounding the city. Once intercepted, the Coast Guard aircrews escort them out of this area, and relay any critical, pertinent information to their controlling agency.
Like all Coast Guard units, these men and women stand the watch each and every day to protect our nation. Unlike other units, however, the Air Defense Facility operates under the operational control of the Department of Defense’s North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.
Recently, the Continental United States NORAD Region recognized the air defense facility as the Aerospace Control Alert Unit of the Year for 2014.
Canadian Forces Brig. Gen. Alain Pelletier, the deputy commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, presented the award to the air defense facility’s Operations Officer Lt. Cmdr. Zac Mathews, as well as the crew.
“It is my pride to present the CONR ACA Unit of the Year [award] for what you’ve done and what you’ve demonstrated in terms of dedication,” said Pelletier.
The Coast Guard’s National Capitol Region Air Defense Facility competed against 16 other U.S. Air Force aerospace control alert facilities from across the nation. This marks the first time the Coast Guard unit has been recognized with the award. And rightfully so – the unit possesses a 100 percent mission completion rate and is the only facility to do so.
“This is a tremendous honor that Continental North American Region has recognized the Coast Guard as the top ACA unit of the year,” said Mathews. “The men and women who perform this mission 24/7 are very proud of what they do. We can boast a 100 percent success rate and the fact that our Department of Defense leadership recognizes the efforts the men and women here perform every day is a tremendous honor.”