Many episodes of The Spear have focused on junior officers at the tactical level, whether it be commanding companies, dodging improvised explosive devices, or leading patrols. This episode, with Capt. Pete Mitchell, reframes the role of the lieutenant. Mitchell is an air defense artillery officer and, in 2013, was deployed to Guam with the first operational Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) unit in the Army. Instead of influencing hundreds of yards in any direction, Mitchell’s actions impacted millions of people and the strategic balance in the Pacific.

The reason Mitchell deployed was an increasingly bellicose North Korea. The 2013 provocations were not the first time North Korea lashed out at the international community and made threats involving ballistic missiles, nor would they be the last. Mitchell’s battery, however, was part of a broader shift in the Indo-Pacific for addressing ballistic missile threats. It was also a change from a decade of air defense operations in the Middle East, with fixed sites, limited threats, and a routine deployment. Furthermore, the radar scope Mitchell watched was being viewed as far away as the Pentagon as tensions remained high.

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Image credit: Missile Defense Agency