Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. "Trey" Obering III turned over responsibility for missile defense operations to Army Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O’Reilly, who became the eighth director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).

The shift in leadership was announced earlier this year.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England officiated over the change of leadership, which was held at the Air Force Memorial site in Arlington, Va. near the Pentagon.

The MDA grew from the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization.

Obering became MDA director in July, 2004, and led the agency to numerous accomplishments for the integrated Ballistic Missile Defense System during his tenure. These include:

  • Emplacement of more than two dozen interceptor missiles in Alaska and California to defend the United States against a limited long-range ballistic missile attack from North Korea
  • Two successful intercept tests under operationally realistic conditions
  • Testing and deployment for the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense, including 10 successful test intercepts
  • Continued development and testing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, to include a perfect record of five consecutive test intercepts.
  • Execution of a global command, control, battle management and communication network for integrated missile defense operations
  • Continuing development of missile defense systems that kill enemy missiles in their most vulnerable phase of flight, just after liftoff: the Airborne Laser and Kinetic Energy Interceptor
  • Construction and operation of the largest X-band radar in the world, the Sea-based X-band
  • Completion of upgrades and integration of early warning radars in Alaska, California and the United Kingdom.
  • Development and preparation for launch of two new missile tracking satellites, the Space Tracking and Surveillance System.
  • Development and testing of the new Multiple Kill Vehicle system to provide for better capability against more advanced countermeasures that could be encountered in the future.

Obering also was instrumental in planning and executing the successful shootdown in February of a satellite containing toxic fuel that was falling from orbit. He also played a leading role in greatly increasing U.S. missile defense partnerships with nearly two dozen countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and many others.

He was instrumental in planning for the proposed European Missile Defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic to help defend Europe and the United States from a ballistic missile launched from the Middle East.

During his tenure as director, the Missile Defense Agency completed 17 successful "hit to kill" intercepts in tests against ballistic missile targets of all ranges with Agency- managed land and sea-based missile defense elements.

Obering drew high praise from Riki Ellison, chairman and founder of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance.

"In the last four years missile defense has grown exponentially from just a few countries to over 20 countries that participate and partner with the United States on missile defense," Ellison observed. "The evolution of global missile defense has begun. Most prominent of this growth under Lt. Gen. Trey Obering has been the deployment of missile defense systems in England, Japan, Israel and the two major agreements with the Czech Republic and Poland to host future missile defense systems." (Please see separate story on the European Missile Defense system in this issue.)

"These achievements by the leadership of Lt. Gen. Trey Obering and the thousands of people of the Missile Defense Agency that worked under his leadership and the over 55,000 people from 37 states that actively supported these systems over the past four years deserve to all be thanked, recognized and greatly appreciated for their outstanding work. Each and every one of you has made our Nation safer than it was four years ago."

In a separate ceremony, Marine General James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, officiated at a retirement ceremony honoring Obering’s 35 years of active duty in the Air Force. He also presented Obering with the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.

O’Reilly has spent more than a decade in missile defense program management, testing and acquisition, including serving as project or program manager for the Patriot Advanced Capability-3, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the Ground-based Midcourse Defense programs.

Last year, he was named deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency. He is a graduate of the Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and received master’s degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School, Naval War College and Salve Regina College. He also is a graduate of the Naval College of Command and Staff; the Army War College and the Army Command and Staff College.