Naming rights at NORAD

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The building at Peterson Air Force Base that houses Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command will be named for two retired generals at a ceremony Monday.

The building, commonly called Building 2, will bear the names of Air Force Gen. Ralph "Ed" Eberhart and Royal Canadian Air Force Gen. Eric Findley.

NORAD and Northern Command
  • Eberhart: Commander when 9/11 happened.

Eberhart was the first commander of NorthCom and NORAD, and Findley the deputy commander of NORAD, when NorthCom was created in October 2002 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.

It's the first time the name of a U.S. military combatant command headquarters will include a Canadian military officer's name. NORAD, formed more than 50 years ago, is a joint command of the United States and Canada.

On that fateful day, Sept. 11, 2001, Eberhart was in charge of NORAD and U.S. Space Command and was headed to the NORAD headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station after the terrorist-controlled planes smashed into the World Trade Center. But his cell-phone call with then-Vice President Dick Cheney got dropped, and it took him 45 minutes to get to the mountain bunker. The blast doors there were closed for the first time in response to a bona fide emergency since the Cold War ended, as I reported when I worked for the daily newspaper here some years ago.

The drive meant Eberhart wasn't at his battle station when needed, and NORAD didn't deploy fighter jets in time to shoot down the terrorist jet liners, including one that crashed into a Pennsylvania farm field. NORAD took a lot of criticism for the mixup, although NORAD's mission at that time was to monitor for incoming threats, not those that originated from within the United States.

How NORAD and NorthCom operate has radically changed since then to include a bevy of agencies within its control center, notably among them the Federal Aviation Administration.

All of that was among the factors that led to the Defense Department's controversial decision to move the NORAD headquarters to Peterson. Now, the Cheyenne Mountain base is used for training and kept on "warm standby" but not fully staffed.

Eberhart commanded NorthCom its first three years and helped found the National Homeland Defense Foundation in 2004, a nonprofit that strives to secure the nation "through sharing of innovation, research, education, and information in the fields of homeland defense and security," according to the organization's website. He's still a member of the board.

NORAD and Northern Command
  • Findley: Making history.

A graduate of the Air Force Academy, Eberhart has more than 5,000 pilot hours in various aircraft, including the F-15. He also served as vice chief of staff of the Air Force and as commander of Air Force Space Command and U.S. Space Command at Peterson.

Trained as a pilot, Findley was a staff officer in the Directorate of Peacekeeping Operations Centre and executive assistant to the Deputy Chief of Defence at National Defence Headquarters, according to NORAD. He also served as chief of staff for Personnel, Training and Reserves at Air Command Headquarters and 1 Canadian Air Division, chief of staff for operations at 1 Canadian Air Division/Canadian NORAD Region, and director of operations at NORAD.

Eberhart, Findley and current NORAD and NorthCom commander Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. will be on hand for a ceremony Monday to commemorate the creation of NorthCom and the naming of the building.

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