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U.S. Aircraft Security Handled Differently at Moscow Air Show

By Tech. Sgt. Cindy Dorfner, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

ZHUKOVSKY, Russia, Aug. 18, 2005 – As far as security forces troops are concerned, protecting aircraft in one location is like protecting aircraft in another. The scenery may change, but the procedures don't - unless, of course, the aircraft are in the former Soviet Union.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Senior Airman Larry Cash, 48th Security Forces Squadron sensors program manager, stands watch near an Air Force F-15E fighter jet during the Moscow International Air Show and Space Salon at Ramenskoye Airfield in Zhukovsky, Russia. Though U.S. security forces members are not armed during the air show, they are responsible for maintaining security of the eight U.S. aircraft participating in the event. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Cindy Dorfner, USAF

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

For the 17 members of the 48th Security Forces Squadron from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, protocol in protecting U.S. aircraft at the Moscow International Air Show and Space Salon at Ramenskoye Airfield here is a bit different from what they're used to following.

The security forces members here are not armed, as part of an agreement between the United States and Russia.

"We have no weapons, no type of defense equipment. We don't even have handcuffs," said Master Sgt. Kenneth Blair, 48th SFS Resources noncommissioned officer in charge.

The air show is one of the largest in the world, fourth only to the air shows in Paris; Farnborough, England; and Dubai. But, even with more than 750,000 visitors expected during the six-day air show, Blair said he and his team, which is augmented by some of the aircraft maintainers, are not concerned about security incidents.

"We're working pretty closely with local security, and if a problem requires armed intervention, they're close enough to respond," Blair said.

The U.S. aircraft, including two F-15Es, two F-16CJs, a KC-10 Extender and a KC-135R Stratotanker, are on static display behind a metal gate called a corral.

Also, two B-1B Lancers are on hand for static and aerial displays and are expected to draw large crowds.

But, no matter how big the crowds grow, Blair said his team of hand-selected SFS troops is here to maintain 24-hour security for the U.S. assets - a job he's confident his team can handle.

"Inside the corral, it's business as usual. Each of these guys does a different job around the squadron every day, but they all have ties with security and they know their jobs very well," Blair said.

Like duty at RAF Lakenheath, the days here are long. The trip from the hotel to the airfield and back can take up to two hours each way. Add that to a 12-hour shift and it doesn't leave much time for sightseeing. Still, most people on the security team are thrilled about the opportunities this trip provides.

"It's ironic that it took me coming to Moscow to learn more about our Air Force," said Senior Airman Larry Cash, 48th SFS sensors program manager. "This is the first time I've had the chance to talk with (aircraft) maintainers. I didn't really have an understanding of what they did. It's neat to hear about what they do and it gives me a chance to see what the Air Force is about outside a cop's life."

Others couldn't believe they were actually in Russia.

"I'm more than excited. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Senior Airman Jerome Hurst, 48th SFS Security Response Team leader. "I'll never forget this as long as I live."

lair couldn't agree more. "I joined the Air Force in 1986 and the Cold War was going strong," he said. "Just being here is amazing. I never, in my lifetime, thought I'd walk on Soviet ground."

This is the second time the United States has displayed military aircraft at the air show; the first time was in 2003. In 2001 the Department of Defense participated with a technology booth.

(Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cindy Dorfner is assigned to the 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs Office.)

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