More than one mile above sea level with a view of the beautiful Rocky Mountains live and work a group of Coast Guard men and women. Working at various commands on multiple military installations from Colorado Springs to Denver, this small contingent of officers and enlisted personnel bring their operational and staff experiences to this unique assignment opportunity in Colorado. Located on Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs are North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command, more commonly referred to as NORAD and USNORTHCOM. The active duty and reserve Coast Guard personnel assigned here work alongside their Canadian counterparts, U.S. Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army and National Guard personnel as well as interagency partners to execute NORAD and USNORTHCOM missions. As both a military service and law enforcement agency, the Coast Guard, with its broad authorities and unique operating capabilities, provide the USNORTHCOM commander greater flexibility to respond to threats against America. Rear Adm. Linda Fagan, one of three military deputy directors of operations at USNORTHCOM, is the senior Coast Guard officer on staff. She is the principal advisor to the USNORTHCOM commander on a wide range of maritime issues, including maritime domain awareness, short notice maritime response and the Arctic. Fagan recognizes “the opportunity to work side by side with Department of Defense services in support of homeland defense and defense support to civil authorities has never been more relevant.”
“Our perspective as Coast Guard members is helpful to NORAD-USNORTHCOM and increases DOD’s ability to leverage resources and authorities for best effect in order to keep America safe and respond to disasters,” added Fagan.
Supporting her and both the NORAD and USNORTHCOM commander is Capt. Gregory Sundgaard, the Coast Guard liaison officer. In this role, he builds and strengthens relationships between the two commands and Coast Guard staff elements as well as aligns Coast Guard strategic priorities with DOD and interagency counterparts. The remaining Coast Guardsmen are assigned to various staff positions within the operations, planning, personnel administration, exercise and intelligence directorates, the command center and the legal counsel office. Additionally, Coast Guard reservists, led by Capt. Robert Grassino, augment various directorates during active duty periods and drill weekends, providing subject matter expertise to interagency partners. Not far outside the gates of Peterson Air Force Base are other Coast Guard personnel fulfilling unique duties. Chief Petty Officer Joe Carter, an operations specialist, works at nearby Schriever Air Force Base as the civil liaison to the 2nd Space Operations Squadron. Chief Petty Officer JoAnne Warzynski, a health services technician, is assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy as a Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board member. Through their hard work, these chiefs build networks of trust and camaraderie among all services. On Buckley Air Force Base outside of Denver is the Coast Guard Cryptologic Unit Colorado; one of four cryptologic units in the Coast Guard. The commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Logan Medica, leads the 18 member unit conducting technical training, analysis and reporting of the maritime domain in support of tactical and operational fleet commands, the Coast Guard Intelligence enterprise, combatant commanders and national policymakers. Lastly, the Coast Guard recruiting office in Denver, led by Chief Petty Officer Rich Balliew, receives thousands of inquiries from people who are interested in joining the Coast Guard. Many of these potential recruits want to serve their country and do so as a member of the Coast Guard. While it may seem strange the Coast Guard works at land-locked bases to begin with, the dedicated group of Coast Guardsmen who call Colorado home are forging partnerships that strengthen America’s safety and defense.