JTAGS Soldiers stay certified for vital defense mission

Joint Tactical Ground Station D Detachment Soldiers assigned to Misawa Air Base in Northern Japan undergo certification to remain current on their early warning, theater ballistic missile defense mission. (U.S. Army photo by Robert S. Segin)
September 12, 2019

Space Soldiers nestled in a small section of a faraway base maintain constant training for their 24/7/365 mission.

Joint Tactical Ground Station, or JTAGS, D Detachment Soldiers stationed in Northern Japan recently underwent certification to remain current on their early warning, theater ballistic missile defense mission.

“It’s a great privilege and honor to have the opportunity to command D Detachment,” said Capt. Jordan Dea, JTAGS D Detachment commander. “We are a small element, comprised of just 22 Space Soldiers, with a unique and incredibly important mission.

“I am very proud of these Space Soldiers and the way they are able to operate at such a high level to execute effectively and accomplish our inherently complex mission,” he added. “They are accomplishing a real-world mission on a daily basis, alerting and cueing information data to combatant commanders and missile defense assets. We take full advantage of training opportunities to ensure we remain proficient with our skill sets and to identify any weaknesses or gaps in our performance. We train to reinforce and strengthen our skills to improve and remain proficient with our current and future performance.”

Dea said his Soldiers accomplish a no-fail mission to receive and process data directly downlinked from infrared satellite sensors. Once processed by the crews, the information is then disseminated as near-real-time warning of ballistic missile launches and other tactical events of interest throughout the Far-East theater using a multitude of secure communication networks.

He added that the Soldiers spent a week with graders during an external evaluation learning skills to certify and maintain their validation.

“This evaluation occurs once a year from our higher headquarters to ensure we are performing our duties appropriately and across the board all detachment are operating at the same,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Myers, D Detachment Operations officer in charge. “Like the infantry or the armor, this evaluation is for crew proficiency. It is an understanding that each member of a crew has a particular job they are required to do and when doing such, it allows us to know we can do our jobs effectively and efficiently here at the detachment.

“During this certification, our Space Soldiers are taking advantage and fine-tuning their skills to show the evaluators their abilities and showcase their talent at a higher level,” Myers added. “This training will hone their skills and ensure these crews are more proficient in their daily duties and responsibilities.”

Organized under the 1st Space Company, there are four JTAGS detachments, each one located in Japan, Europe, the Middle East and Korea. The 1st Space Company falls under the 1st Space Battalion, 1st Space Brigade, and is a part of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

JTAGS receives infrared data directly from satellites and the Soldiers process that data from the sensors to alert U.S. and allied commanders in their assigned theaters.

“I receive and process data to let combatant commanders have situational awareness of what is happening in their area of operation,” said Sgt. Paul Gutierrez, air defense enhanced early warning system operator. “I enjoy the fact that every day when I am on mission I feel like I make a difference. It is real here every single day, there are no exercises when I come to work.

“The Table 8 certification is always a good opportunity because they challenge you on the worst events that can happen,” he added. “It is good because you learn and remember events so you don’t get complacent. It is challenging every single time. They do this and make it extremely hard so when a real-world mission occurs, you make the best decisions.”

During their certification, every JTAGS operator proceeded through a demanding, multi-level, dynamic certification process and spent time on missions in each position. Graders pushed the Soldiers for readiness, active and passive defense operations, knowledge of procedures and ensuring the crews were proficient in their missions.

“The evaluation went well,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Steven Lamb, 1st Space Battalion Command and Control systems integrator. “The crews were very motivated and overall they obtained good training from it. These external evaluations are extremely important and SMDC has mandated that we do these every year to ensure they are certified and prepared to accomplish their mission.”