Vance security forces: Deployed police officers keep overseas bases safe

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Amanda Savannah
  • Public Affairs
Like other Air Force professions' deployments, security forces rotations have changed significantly since Sept. 11, 2001.
"Gone are the days of simply guarding the gate or patrolling the base for 90 or 120 days," said Staff Sgt. Robert Novak, 71st Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of mobility and the squadron's unit deployment manager.
Now, deployed security forces Airmen can expect anything from perimeter patrols, to convoy operations and even detainee operations for a standard 179 days, said the Detroit native.
"It's our mission to defend air bases and ensure the United States can apply force without interruption," said Maj. Robert Rossi, former 71st Security Forces Squadron commander. "We make sure planes can fly with nothing to impede them and we identify and eliminate threats that may affect the force. We also secure our areas to fly and fight, using tactics such as perimeter control and convoy duties to protect our people and resources."
However, change is the only likeness security forces deployments have with other careers in the Air Force.
Typically, Vance Air Force Base police officers deploy as a four-, five- or 13-person team, except for K-9 handlers who deploy individually, Sergeant Novak said. Deployment teams also attend a specialized two-week training course at Creech AFB, Nev., before they leave, which covers patrolling, convoy procedures, unexploded ordinance identification and more.
"Sometimes teams depart for their deployment right from Creech, which means even more time away from their families," Sergeant Novak said.
Being away from family was the hardest part of the deployment for Senior Airman Ronald Lowe, who was deployed throughout Kuwait in 2004.
"I missed seeing my child's first steps," said the San Antonio native.
For Staff Sergeant Timothy Coleman, realizing he took little things for granted at home was also difficult.
"Some places there's no television, others there's no running water, and on most, we didn't have the freedom to go off base," said the Choctaw, Okla., native, who returned in April from a deployment at Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait.
Many security officers are also being pulled to fill Army taskings, Sergeant Novak said.
"We work 12-hour days in a joint-service environment on a wide range of duties, depending on the base's mission and what each individual is trained to do," he said. "We go from issuing citations at Vance, to convoying supplies or marching with 50-pound ruck sacks at any location, any time.
"During my last deployment, I worked with active-duty members, Reservists, Guardsmen and Army military police members, all in the same unit, but it was great, because everyone worked together and was on the same page."
Rotations can also call for any Airman, from the lowest-ranking airman basic up to the commander, said Sergeant Novak.
"It all depends on the requirements at the location and who is trained and ready to go," he said.
There are some positive experiences security forces members go through during deployments however.
"Camaraderie is better when you're deployed, because you're far from home and all you have is each other," Sergeant Coleman said.
"It's also a good feeling performing my job on a more real level," Airman Lowe said. "I was definitely contributing to making a difference in the war."
For any Air Force member deploying in the future, Sergeant Coleman and Airman Lowe had the following advice:
"Prepare yourself and your family -- make sure you have a care plan, a will and insurance. If you're single, make sure you have a plan for the care of your personal items and home," they said.