Base defense: Stories of the men who revolutionized the concept

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force is constantly changing. The missions, training, equipment and even ranks have changed over the years. As veterans age, the past which has taught us so much, slowly starts to fade away.

But the Air Force had to start somewhere, and there is a story and people behind every change it. The men of the 82nd Combat Security Police Wing during the Vietnam War tested new ideas and equipment which helped shape the role of security forces in today's Air Force.

One group of men who transformed the security forces career field are the original Air Force Rangers, the first 18 Airmen to graduate Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. One of these 18 men is retired Master Sgt. Bill Revell, who attended the school as part of the test 1041st Security Police Squadron.

"I got secret orders, and they wouldn't tell me anything," said Sergeant Revell. "The only thing I knew was I was going to Ranger School. Then they sent me to supply and I had to pick up three brand-new uniforms because we were told we couldn't wear rank."

The training at Ranger School had three phases, each of which was three weeks long. Each phase taught a different aspect of light infantry.

"For the first phase, they teach you patrolling and a little about survival," said Sergeant Revell. "They make you hungry, lean and mean; they don't feed you the first three days. We ran the confidence course, shot the M14 rifle at pop-up targets, and astounded the Army because most of us were good shots."

During the second phase of training, the trainees moved to another part of Georgia for the mountain phase.

"During the mountain phase, you climbed mountains, repelled down mountains and went on patrols through mountains," said Sergeant Revell. "When we went on our first six-day patrol, you were up 22 hours a day and ate one meal a day."

The last phase of Ranger School was in the swamps of Florida.

"We would row out to a little island maybe a mile off the coast of Florida then practice assault techniques on it at night," said Sergeant Revell. "We also ran up and down the beach with a telephone pole on our shoulders."

Once he graduated Ranger School, he went Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, to train the rest of the unit.

"We were the start, the core guys," said Sergeant Revell. "It was our job to teach the rest of the 1041st SPS all of this stuff so they could train the rest of the guys who came through."

One of the men in the 1041st SPS that trained with Sergeant Revell after he returned from Ranger School was former Sgt. Michael Glines, who was one of only 15 Airmen to ever become scout dog handlers, as opposed to sentry dog handlers.

"We would go out on patrol and long marches and I had to carry all my gear and my dog," said Sergeant Glines. "We did repelling, water survival, escape and evasion, and whatever else the cadre came up with. For water survival, we jumped off a three-meter board into water blindfolded, with our 60-pound pack, rifle and our dog, and then swam back."

Sergeant Glines served two tours in Vietnam, one as a traditional sentry dog handler and another as a scout dog handler.

"I volunteered first in 1965 as part of Operation Top Dog 45, which sent the first Air Force sentry dogs to go to Vietnam. In June 1965, they sent 45 dogs and dog handlers to Vietnam. I was part of a group of 15 that went to Da Nang."

Then again in 1967, Sergeant Glines deployed to Phu Cat Air Base, Vietnam, with the rest of the 1041st SPS, only this time as a scout dog handler.

"We trained our dogs to pick up scents- even if someone was in the water breathing through a tube, the dogs could pick up the scent of their breath," said Sergeant Glines. "They used the dogs for patrols, and during ambushes had them on either end of the team.

"The dogs were trained not to bark, and you were trained to identify what that dog is telling you by their unique reactions," he added. "That saved lives. If we are on patrol and my dog alerts us, we can let the squad leader know that we have a contact, and they'll decide what to do."

After Sergeant Glines and the 1041st SPS returned from Vietnam, they trained three other squadrons, and the 82nd Combat Security Police Wing was formed.

Former Airman 1st Class Rick Royse, 823rd Combat Security Police Squadron booby trap specialist, was in one of the squadrons that were trained by the 1041st and their successors.

Airman Royse was one few Airmen to ever become a booby trap specialist in the Air Force. After demolitions training at Fort Campbell, he was sent to Schofield Barracks to train with the rest of the 823rd CSPS.

In 1969, Airman Royse deployed to Phan Rang Air Base, Vietnam to relieve the 822nd CSPS.

"It felt like we must've laid 500 M14 anti-personnel mines while deployed to Phan Rang Air Base, but all I know for sure is that we laid down many, many mines," said Airman Royse. "Before we could lay the mines we had to clear the fields by setting them on fire. It was the only way we had to clear the brush.

"Once the fields were clear, we would crawl in between the razor wire outside the perimeter and set the mines," he added.

These men all had unique roles in an experimental unit. The 1041st SPS, later the 82nd CSPW, was the first light infantry unit in the Air Force, and their training proved effective for not only security and combat missions but also the Air Force mission in general.

More than 250 of the original Airmen of the 1041st went on to achieve the rank of chief master sergeant - the highest ratio in the Air Force.

In 1997, the 82nd CSPW was reactivated as the 820th Base Defense Group. The men of the 820th BDG can trace their origins back to the men of the 82nd CSPW who revolutionized the equipment and tactics that the Air Force use for base defense.