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Vandenberg's Army detachment critical for U.S. missile defense

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Army Sgt. 1s Class Charles Rice, 100th Missile Defense Brigade Detachment 1 first sergeant, and Army Capt. Orlando Cobos, 100th MDB Det.1 commander, check on one of their launch sites Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010 here. The 100th MDB plays a large role in United States missile defense. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Army Sgt. 1s Class Charles Rice, 100th Missile Defense Brigade Detachment 1 first sergeant, and Army Capt. Orlando Cobos, 100th MDB Det.1 commander, check on one of their launch sites Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010 here. The 100th MDB plays a large role in United States missile defense. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Andrew Satran)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Under the National Security Act of 1947, the Department of Defense was created to protect the assets and interests of the United States.

During one of former President Ronald W. Reagan's speeches concerning U.S. strategic defense initiatives in March 1983, his words began to ignite a movement in America in support of developing a superior U.S. missile defense system.

Years later, in 2002, as more countries began to house intercontinental ballistic missiles, U.S. officials began to feel the outside pressure and quickly recognized the importance of a homeland missile defense system.

"These capabilities will serve as a starting point for fielding improved and expanded missile defense capabilities later," said former U.S. President George W. Bush. "Missile defense cooperation will be a feature of U.S. relations with close, long-standing allies to protect not only the U.S. and our deployed forces, but also friends and allies."

In April 2004, the 100th Missile Defense Brigade was stood up in Colorado, and shortly thereafter, Soldiers were sent to Vandenberg in support of the brigade's mission.

Due to the location on California's Central Coast and its topography, Vandenberg became a prime spot for Detachment 1, 100th MDB to defend the United States and its allies against foreign attacks.

Now as one of Vandenberg's tenant units, Det. 1, 100th MDB is composed of a seven-man team of Guardsmen who conduct operations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Although we may only be a small piece of the pie, we are a critical piece," said Army Capt. Orlando Cobos, the Det. 1, 100th MDB commander. "We provide the missile defense community with support and situational awareness about the current state of its assets. Our mission and assets here are essential for protecting the U.S. from ICBM launches."

Other than being the only Army unit stationed here, Det. 1 is also different in that it has a one-of-a-kind mission.

"The Brigade is the first and only line of defense against a launch from an enemy ICBM coming to the United States," said Sgt. 1st Class Charles Rice, the Det. 1 NCOIC first sergeant. "This puts us in a very unique position in the entire national defense system."

The responsibilities of Det. 1 may change from day to day, but the unit remains focused on missile defense readiness.

"Our unit basically coordinates everything between all of the base contractors and Department of Defense employees, who do all of the physical work on the equipment," Sergeant Rice said. "We are the liaisons who are also here to keep a close eye on the missiles and other assets here."

Although small in numbers, Det. 1 relies on sound teamwork to handle the immense responsibility the nation has entrusted them with.

"Our teamwork here is a little different than anywhere else," said Sergeant Rice. "It is not so much that we are working together side-by-side, but we are coordinating our shifts. We have to be able to count on the person who you cannot see doing his job when you're not around. Quite often we only have one person on duty, and I have to have full trust in that individual as an NCO - that he is doing his job and not have to be looking over his shoulder all of the time."

In an ever-changing world, where threats of mass destruction are not too far from the imagination, units like Det. 1 are here to deter threats directed toward the U.S. and bring peace to the minds of the American public.