Vance security forces: Guarding 71st FTW begins at gate

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Amanda Savannah
  • Public Affairs
Anyone desiring access onto an Air Force base has seen them -- the ambassadors in blue.
Civilian gate guards now monitor and restrict people coming onto and driving around bases, where once active-duty officers stood.
"Civilian gate guards began working on bases after the war in Iraq started and the Air Force needed a cost-effective way to free up manpower," said Ken Anderson, Computer Sciences Corporation gate guard site manager. "With civilian forces guarding the gates, more active-duty forces could be deployed."
The civilian gate guard section at Vance began in January 2005 and supplements the 71st Security Forces Squadron.
"On top of our section duties, we also help the squadron during exercises, with traffic control and act as the base entry information center, directing people where to go for what they need," said Lieutenant Lou Phillips, day shift supervisor.
Thirty-six guards work together to cover the day, swing and mid-shifts, which means Vance gates are secure 24 hours a day. Their job includes ID checks, writing day passes, commercial vehicle searches, assisting the squadron with base entry point checks on privately-owned vehicles, giving directions and handling issues at the lowest level.
"I like my job at the gate very much; I love my co-workers and everyone on my shift works very well together," said Enid native Sergeant Traci Hannah, sergeant of the guard.
However, the gate guard section also includes many officers who work behind the scenes. Scott Boas, a 71st SFS civilian and Officer Jeff Schultz, CSC gate guard security officer, work together to operate the pass and registration office, located in the 71st SFS building. The office is responsible for base vehicle registration, privately-owned weapons registration, issuing extended visitors' and contractor passes and issuing non-standard Geneva Convention civilian and non-appropriated fund employee ID cards.
"I love working here," said Scott Boas, pass and registration clerk. "I get to interact with everyone on base at some point, whether they're coming, leaving or getting a new vehicle. Our customer base is so broad, I don't go a day without learning something new."
The gate guard section also has a chain of command, like the squadron, and if an issue can't be resolved at the gate, the matter is sent to a shift supervisor before it's brought to Mr. Anderson.
As shift supervisor, Lieutenant Phillips ensures his shift members know their operating policies and procedures. He schedules his shift and makes sure their hours are entered into the system, as well as performs periodic morale checks and handles further issues at the gate.
"I was stationed at Vance in operations for 14 years," the Colfax, La., native said. "I really liked the area and the base, so when I heard about the job, I wanted to return."
Finally, program management duties for Mr. Anderson include ensuring the section has enough manpower and equipment, people are paid and any prior gate issues are handled, as well as answering complaints and positive comments received from the base.
"The best part of my job here is the people," said Mr. Anderson, a Millbury, Mass., native. "Between the public and my employees, I couldn't ask for a better environment. They've all made my work here very pleasurable."
Sometimes Mr. Anderson runs into people who see his section as "rent-a-cops," but he wants people to know they take pride in what they do and are very well trained and motivated to support the 71st SFS in keeping Vance safe.
To become a gate guard, a person does not have to be a prior officer in any military service. However, those who are prior military officers can apply for training waivers.
"People not formerly military police will be trained through the Oklahoma Council Law Enforcement Education and Training," Mr. Anderson said. "All applicants must meet the Air Force body mass index standard and will receive weapons training. Once hired, guards then attend an additional 40 hours of training."
Sergeant Hannah was at Vance for two years with the Army National Guard before she joined the guard section as a civilian.
"What I do is very important to me," she said. "It also makes me feel good, knowing I'm part of protecting the base."
The gate guard section is constantly striving to provide the Vance community with top-notch service. To let the section know how gate guards are doing and if there is anything they can do better, send feedback, praise or problems via e-mail to, on a customer comment card when visiting pass and registration, or by phone at 7605 or 5522. 
"It's also helpful to have ID cards ready at the gate to expedite entry, and to make sure you have an ID card, driver's license, insurance and vehicle registration at least in your vehicle at all times," Lieutenant Phillips added.
"We all work for an outstanding squadron and base," Mr. Anderson said. "The Vance community is above any other, and we strive to make our relationship with it better every day."
(Editor's note: This is the second in a four-part series about security forces operations at Vance Air Force Base.)