KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --
The 1-1 Air Defense Artillery hosted the fourth-annual Okinawa Missile Defender of the Year Banquet Nov. 22 here.
The event that has come to embody the spirit of the air defense artillery community in Okinawa, as well as the rest of the Pacific. Sponsored by the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, this yearly banquet seeks to highlight and recognize Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines from U.S. and Japanese military organizations who demonstrate proficiency on air defense systems and who enable theater air defense through direct coordination with air defense assets and organizations.
Mr. Riki Ellison, Founder of the MDAA, has been sponsoring Missile Defender of the Year Banquets since 2010, with the goal of increasing awareness of ballistic missile defense around the world. His alliance has recognized missile defenders from all four branches, as well as bilateral partners around the world.
This year's banquet in Okinawa recognized and awarded 34 exceptional servicemen and women from the 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery, 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron, 623rd Air Control Squadron, 5th Air Defense Missile Group, and 15th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment. There were also members of each awardee's senior leadership in attendance, including: Lt. Gen. Jyunichi Araki, Southwestern Composite Air Division commander; Maj. Gen. James Pasquarette, U.S. Army Japan commander, and Brig. Gen. Sean Gainey, Commander of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command.
Each awardee received an autographed jersey and football from Ellison, a 3-time Super Bowl Champion, as well as the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance Medal, and excellence coins from their senior leaders. The most memorable portion of the evening, however, came as each awardee exited the stage after receiving their gifts, when their autographed football was thrown to them by Ellison.
One of the 1-1 ADA Awardees commented on his opinion of the event, saying "...the event was great. Being recognized for your hard work day in and day out, and having Riki Ellison throw footballs at you all night sounds like the perfect event to me." Needless to say, footballs flying through the air while service members are wearing their dress uniforms makes for an exciting night all around. There were some NFL-worthy catches, making for an eventful evening.