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Northern Command:
The U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) conducts homeland defense, civil support and security cooperation to defend and secure the United States and its interests. Its area of responsibility includes the continental United States, Alaska, Canada, Mexico and the surrounding water out to approximately 500 nautical miles. It also encompasses the Gulf of Mexico, Straits of Florida, and portions of the Caribbean region to include The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The commander of USNORTHCOM is responsible for theater security cooperation with Canada, Mexico, and The Bahamas.

Civil service employees and uniformed members representing all Service branches work at USNORTHCOM’s headquarters located at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. The commander of USNORTHCOM also commands the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), a bi-national command responsible for aerospace warning, aerospace control, and maritime warning for Canada, Alaska and the U.S.

USNORTHCOM’s civil support mission includes domestic disaster relief operations that occur during fires, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. Support also includes counter-drug operations and managing the consequences of a terrorist event employing a weapon of mass destruction. The command provides assistance to a Primary Agency when tasked by DoD. Per the Posse Comitatus Act, military forces can provide civil support, but cannot become directly involved in law enforcement. In providing civil support, USNORTHCOM generally operates through established Joint Task Forces subordinate to the
command. An emergency must exceed the capabilities of local, state and federal agencies before USNORTHCOM becomes involved. In most cases, support will be limited, localized and specific. When the scope of the disaster is reduced to the point that the Primary Agency can again assume full control and management without military assistance, USNORTHCOM will exit, leaving the on-scene experts to finish the job.

Parts of Mexico are sometimes included in the annual humanitarian civic assistance medical outreach and collaborative training projects conducted by the Navy through the Continuing Promise hospital ship missions led by Southern Command and carried out in partnership with each host country.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Uppling (left) and Lt. Col. Julie Eubanks, both controllers with the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall AFB, Fla., establish communications with their counterparts at Mexico’s Rescue Coordination Center during a search for a missing airplane near the U.S.-Mexico border Oct. 15, 2010. The controllers assisted in the coordination of locating the fatal crash site. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jared Scott)