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Deadly Force

Posted By Vanderbilt Magazine On March 11, 2008 @ 2:15 pm In Spring 2008, The Classes | No Comments

Hildreth 2

Ted Hildreth, BE’89 (standing, right), with Terry Moran, co-anchor of ABC News’ Nightline. Photo by Sgt. Jack W. Carlson III

If North Korea or Iran shot an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at the United States, most of us would be blissfully unaware. But for Lt. Col. Ted Hildreth, this “bolt out of the blue” would be just the scenario he’s been training for his whole career. Hildreth is commander of the 49th Missile Defense Battalion at Fort Greely, Alaska.

“My battalion is the only one of its kind in the military,” says Hildreth. “No other unit can shoot down an ICBM that would potentially touch our country.”

Thanks to satellites and sensors around the world, the ability to detect the time and general location of a missile launch occurs almost in real time. “All that information is correlated and fed to my fire direction crew so that they can do all they need to do to potentially launch and intercept an ICBM.” The final say-so to intercept lies with the country’s senior leadership, and they only have a few minutes to communicate with Hildreth and his crew, who are operational 24/7.

Hildreth’s two-year stint at Fort Greely will come to an end in May. He has been selected to attend the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., from July 2008 to June 2009. The course there is designed to train the future senior leaders of the Army and Army National Guard. But he will always be grateful for his time spent in command.

“A bad day in command beats a good day at the Pentagon any day,” says Hildreth. “There’s no greater privilege in life in the military.”


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