Base security requires teamwork, personal responsibility

  • Published
  • By Maj. Herb Meadows
  • 71st Security Forces Squadron
Air Force senior leaders announced in 2006 the need for Air Force Security Forces to quickly evolve beyond our existing "Cold War" strategic planning and functional paradigms to ensure our Airmen are adequately trained, equipped and organized to defend against the new global threats and insurgency realities of our time.

Security forces were deploying in support of Operations Iraq Freedom and Enduring Freedom while managing an increasing number of Army in-lieu-of taskings. Additionally, security forces were still managing the same level of garrison resource security and law enforcement requirements, causing an exorbitant amount of stress on these organizations while ultimately leveraging these requirements on the backs of our Airmen. Commanders were encouraged to review their current operations and develop security management efficiencies fostering the maximum degree of support for our important wartime taskings and handle our general force protection and law enforcement requirements at the same time.

For many installations, that translates into changes in security-response procedures, a reduction in the scope and scale of basic police services and sometimes exemptions from outdated daily garrison details. Essentially, leadership was forced to analyze their current manning and ensure our wartime responsibilities received top priority.

The security forces squadron of the future may indeed have an active-duty squadron commander, a civilian deputy, a small number of active duty and civilian staff personnel with the remaining security forces members training and conducting some garrison security and law enforcement functions alongside a growing number of Department of Defense guards or contractors until their next air expeditionary force rotation. In fact you can see that steady transformation taking place today as you drive through our entry control points and are greeted by a civilian contractor instead of an airman first class.

For example, the 71st Security Forces Squadron is slowly posturing for a mostly civilianized staff in the near future that will undoubtedly provide a level of continuity, consistency and substantive program development opportunities that have eluded the organization for years due to the high deployment and turnover rates of our defenders.

As our security forces change and refocus their training, equipping and organization strategies to meet today's demanding wartime challenges, what can the rest of our base organizations do to help ensure the installation is adequately protected and defended against terrorist threats? The phrase "Every Airman a Sensor" became popular a few years ago as a reminder to each Air Force member to protect their base regardless of Air Force Specialty Code and take personal responsibility for the security of resources and facilities. This concept was indeed progressive at the time, but also left many Airmen wondering if senior leadership expected each Airman to train to become a cop or augmentee. 

"Asking a visitor in my work station for their ID card or defending my compound is a cop thing not a communication squadron or logistical readiness squadron mission right?" The security forces transformation cannot achieve measurable success without every Airman internalizing the "fight the base" concept and realize fundamental base security is everyone's "secondary AFSC". Security forces can't be everywhere and we need everyone to function as sentries, sensors and warriors operating in correlating concentric security rings in order to mitigate today's sophisticated threats.

Base security doesn't begin and end at the main gate; it takes continuous and frequent assessing for a base to be effective from a security perspective. In the event of an attack, each Airman must be trained and equipped to defend the base as a total integrated force.

Being an avid Discovery Channel viewer, I like to compare today's base defense requirements to that of a honey bee hive. A bee hive has guard bees tasked with sensing and detecting foreign bees that don't belong to the hive and promptly removing them. There are also bees that sound the alarm and protect the hive from outside threats and subsequently attack or swarm the potential aggressor if necessary. The key element within a hive facilitating an effective cumulative defense capability is communication. Bees communicate important hive survivability and sustainability messages through elaborate dances and by excreting pheromones, the end result is a synergy of efforts within and away from the hive ensuring the protection and overall success of their mission.

Airmen can adapt the bee hive concept to air base defense by ensuring installation and unit random anti-terrorism measures are conducted religiously, suspicious activities within and away from the installation are called in to the local police, base security forces or Air Force Office of Special Investigations, suspicious phone calls or emails are reported accordingly, operational security becomes a daily discipline, and individuals who don't look like they belong within your area of responsibility are aggressively challenged and identified. If a stranger sits down next to you at Starbucks and begins asking very detailed and deliberate questions about Vance Air Force Base flying operations or security procedures, what would you do? Who would you report it to?

With today's wartime commitments at our strategic forefront, our mission is too important and our installation too valuable to rely on a few organizations to ensure the installation is protected. Every Airman needs to be mentally prepared to stand as a last line of defense between an adversary and our base.