TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Protecting the skies of the continental United States is an enormous task.
The organization responsible for that job has almost a bigger name: 1st Air Force, Air Forces Northern and Continental United States North American Aerospace Defense Command.
From the outside, AFNORTH may look like just another Air Force facility at Tyndall AFB, when in fact it’s much more than that. It’s actually several facilities and has several missions important to national security.
Its primary mission is to ensure the air sovereignty and air defense of the continental United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It protects America from 9/11 style terrorist attacks. It does this with a full-spectrum of air defense and surveillance resources across the continent.
The organization also responds to non-military threats as well. It assists civilian agencies during emergencies and natural and man-made disasters. It provides inter-agency and joint military support to local, state, regional, and federal emergency service agencies; and protects the American people and their way of life.
Here at Tyndall AFNORTH is comprised of several assets, all of which are spread across the Tyndall installation.
The 601st Air Operations Center is one of those assets. Their mission is to provide aerospace warning and control for North American Aerospace Defense Command defensive counter air activities. Additionally, it directs Air Force air and space capabilities in support of U.S. Northern Command homeland security and civil support missions.
Within the 601st is the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, where they play a part in preventing loss of life with other rescue agencies.
"The AFRCC works within the continental United States by coordinating federal resources in support of local and state-run search and rescue missions when their resources have been exhausted,” said Maj. Evan Gardner, AFRCC director of operations. “Missions range from lost hikers to overdue aircraft."
The facility is staffed by military officers, enlisted personnel and civilians on a 24/7 rotation.
Master Sgt. Martha Dunning, AFNORTH standards and evaluations manager, expressed her thoughts of working within the air operations center.
“In the past, I was the NCO in charge of operational training for the 601st AOC and had a chance to work very closely with the standards and evaluations shop,” Dunning said. “They go hand-in-hand, but are very different. It is interesting to see more facets of the air defense mission.”
Also on the spectrum of AFNORTH is the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region. It’s also known as the CONUS NORAD Region. As its name would imply, this component of NORAD provides airspace surveillance and control, as well as direct aerospace control activities for the continental United States.
NORAD is the bi-national Canadian and American command that employs a network of space, aerial and ground-based sensors, air-to-air refueling tankers and fighter aircraft, controlled by a sophisticated command and control network to deter, detect and defend against aerial threats that originate outside or within North American airspace.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, First Air Force has been the lead agency in Operation Noble Eagle. Operation Noble Eagle is the U.S. operation that protects the American people from further airborne aggression from inside and outside the U.S. borders.