Many Airmen, one goal: 'Defend the base'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Don Branum
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group activated July 24. Its Airmen have a singular purpose, which is reflected in the group's mission statement: "Defend the Base." 

Crucial to the group's activation are a cadre of 17 Airmen from the 820th Security Forces Group at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., who have special training to defend Joint Base Balad both inside the wire and out. 

The 820th SFG, under the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing at Moody, provides the expeditionary Air Force with deployable, "first-in", fully integrated, multidisciplined, highly qualified, self-sustaining force protection capability. 

The 93rd AGOW brings together and provides a new level of support to battlefield Airmen from the 820th SFG, the 3rd Air Support Operations Group at Fort Hood, Texas, and the 18th ASOG at Pope AFB, N.C. 

Three Airmen deployed from the 820th SFG -- Capt. Ian Dinesen, Senior Master Sgt. Ron Hall and Staff Sgt. Brett Darby -- are building the foundations for the rest of the group. Each recognizes the historic significance of activating an expeditionary security forces group. 

"It's humbling, daunting, exciting -- it's a myriad of several different emotions wrapped into an intense, fast-paced package," Captain Dinesen said. "I'm having one heck of a time with it; it's awesome." 

As the NCO in-charge of intelligence, Sergeant Hall is developing the group's intelligence capabilities and situational awareness. 

"This whole war is intel-driven," Sergeant Hall said. "I'm here to give our people the right information for the base defense mission to keep everyone safe." 

Sergeant Darby, a combat technology NCO, ensures that intelligence will be available to Airmen on the ground. 

"There are a lot of threats outside the wire," Sergeant Darby said. "The most important job for me is to make sure they have the best equipment they can have when they go out there so that they can come home." 

All three Airmen have previous experience in Iraq. In terms of experience and motivation, they reflect the 332nd ESFG as a whole, said Col. John "J.D." Decknick, the 332nd ESFG commander and a prior commander of the 820th SFG. 

"This is not their first rodeo -- they are highly motivated and excited to see that they're finally going to be able to put their training to the test," Colonel Decknick said. "We're looking forward to teaming with our U.S. Army and coalition counterparts to focus our efforts on 'Defending the Base.'" 

The 820th SFG is one of the first Air Force security forces units to participate in outside-the-wire missions in Iraq. 

"They're normal cops and Airmen from other career fields who get additional training," Colonel Decknick said. 

In order to perform outside-the-wire missions, Airmen must learn how to shoot, move and communicate more effectively, react to ambushes from the front or rear, apply combat lifesaver skills, use Blue Force Tracker to track friendly and enemy units, move tactically as flights and squads, call in medevac requests and more, Colonel Decknick said. 

"Air Force security forces, with the 820th SFG as an example, are ready to go now," Colonel Decknick said. "We are organized, trained and equipped to do this mission now, so no crash course is required." 

The activation of the 332nd ESFG marks the first time the Air Force has deployed such a large security forces unit into combat to defend an airbase since the Vietnam conflict. 

"The 82nd Combat Security Police Wing was deactivated back in December of 1968, and now -- almost 40 years later -- the 332nd ESFG will carry that legacy into the future," said Brig. Gen. Brian Bishop, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. 

"Commanding is an opportunity that, as commanders, we relish -- especially now that we lead Airmen in combat." 

The group will encompass Airmen from several career fields: radio and satellite communications, personnel, administration, vehicle maintenance, intelligence and more, Colonel Decknick said. 

"We are all joined together with a singular focus on defending the base," Colonel Decknick said. "We know our role is to support that mission and that mission only. We have great synergy because we're 'joined to fight.'" 

The number of in-lieu-of Army taskings across the combat zone will decrease at nearly a one-to-one ratio so that additional security forces Airmen can be assigned here, Colonel Decknick said. 

The 332nd ESFG will assume every aspect of base defense, including the Joint Defense Operations Center, Quick Reaction Force, tower supervision, housing areas, the flightline, entry control points, law and order, base perimeter gates, the badging office and areas outside the wire.

The group will also cooperate with the Army's 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, whose Soldiers are responsible for the battlespace outside Joint Base Balad. 

"The 2-320th is doing an outstanding job of defending the base, but their area of operations is huge, and they only have so many assets to cover that area," the colonel said. "So any joint teaming that can be done is to our mutual advantage." 

The precedent for in-depth base defense began with Operation Safeside and the activation of the 1041st Security Police Squadron (Test) in July 1966. The 1041st SPS(T) became the 82nd CSPW in July 1967. Lt. Col. William Wise Sr. spoke at the wing's deactivation ceremony at Fort Campbell, Ky. 

"(Operation Safeside) has left an impact on Air Force security operations -- an impact which may not be fully recognized, felt or appreciated for many years to come," Colonel Wise said at the ceremony. "But rest assured, an impact was made -- an impact that may some day affect not only our entire career field but could well make an impression on future tactical air operations." 

Insurgents' tactics today mirror, in many respects, tactics that the Viet Cong used against airbases like Phu Cat Air Base in South Vietnam, one of the 1041st SPS(T)'s first deployment sites, Colonel Decknick said. 

"The enemy doesn't recognize a nation-state boundary. Airbases are not islands in the rear area that require less protection -- they're in the middle of the fight," Colonel Decknick said. "Like in Vietnam, the United States was fighting an insurgency that could launch mortars and rockets against us. The forward edge of the battle area is undefined." 

The similarity of enemy tactics has revived the need for integrated base defense. The veteran 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment prepared the battlefield for the arrival of Task Force 1041 and the commencement of Operation Desert Safeside in early 2005. 

Named after the 1041st SPS(T), Task Force 1041 conducted 338 combat patrols, 56 sniper insertions, 26 direct action patrols and 131 hasty raids in a two-month period. Their actions led to the capture of 17 high-value enemies, eight major arms caches and more than 100 heavy weapons. Indirect fire attacks against the base dwindled. 

"Task Force 1041 showed that Air Force security forces, when properly trained, can augment our Army brothers to defend airbases in a combat environment anywhere at any time," Colonel Decknick said. "TF 1041 proved to joint commanders that when properly organized, trained and equipped, Air Force security forces have a lot to offer to the joint fight."