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Experience, Fresh Eyes Ensure Bagram Air Base Security

By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Nov. 10, 2004 – Air Force Airman Michael Roomsburg stopped the Humvee as Staff Sgt. Chad Marten called to notify the security forces command post that the Delta-5 external security response team was set to patrol the outer perimeter road.

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Chad Marten, Delta-5 External Security Response team member, performs mobile patrol on outer perimeter road at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, as Airman Michael Roomsburg posts guard from the Humvee gun turret. The 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron consists of active-duty and Air Force reservists from six different bases deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Marten is an Air Force reservist deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and Roomsburg is an active-duty member deployed from Pope Air Force Base, N.C. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey, USAF

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

"I'll man the turret," said the airman, a deployed active-duty member from Pope Air Force Base, N.C. The Muskegon, Mich., native then stepped up through the man-sized porthole and positioned himself behind the M-240 automatic rifle mounted on the vehicle roof.

"It's all yours, but you'll have to remind me where the turn-off is," replied Marten, an Air Force reservist deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, as he hopped into the driver's seat.

The team sped off onto the road thick with cocoa-powder fine dirt, creating a cloud around and behind the tactical vehicle.

"This is one of the most dangerous areas of the airfield we patrol due to the fact that it's the most likely place an attack would happen," explained Marten, who hails from Ogden, Utah. "We need to drive through quickly, but keep our eyes open for anything unusual and report it immediately."

The two-man team's primary mission is to ensure the base and Air Force assets remain safe. Their unspoken mission is to protect each other from harm while providing base security -- they themselves are Air Force assets.

Leaders of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron instill the principle that "no one flies solo." At technical school on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, all security forces troops devote three general orders to memory: protect personnel and property, report all violations, and sound the alarm in cases of emergency. Here, security forces also uphold a locally implemented General Order No. 4, "I am my brother's and my sister's keeper."

In a squadron that's a mix of active-duty airmen and activated and traditional reservists deployed from six different stateside bases, maintaining esprit de corps is a must, said Chief Master Sgt. Nathan Huven, squadron operations officer, an active-duty member deployed from Hill.

"Whether we're reservists or active-duty airmen, we're all security forces -- we share a mutual bond and a teamwork mentality," said Huven, a Monico, Wisc., native. "We all look out for each other here. This standing order reminds us to always keep an eye on our fellow security forces members, on and off duty."

Staying alert for any number of possible scenarios that could threaten Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II fighters, munitions or airmen for 12 hours daily, six days a week for six months straight is tiring, monotonous, and very often, unappreciated work.

Security forces work isn't for everyone. Providing a secure environment for not only Air Force, but also Army, Navy and Marine fixed-wing and rotary aircraft here holds its own unique challenges. A few marked differences include a higher probability of being shot at while on patrol, enduring rocket attacks on the base, carrying a firearm both on and off duty, and patrolling around mine fields. And new team members must understand that some lower-ranking airmen who, because they have worked at the deployed location longer, may have more practical field knowledge.

Flight chiefs make full use of this edge by pairing more experienced airmen with newer troops. Marten, who arrived on station a few weeks later than his Delta-5 counterpart, said that he counts on the guidance offered by his fellow patrolman.

"It doesn't matter to me if it's an airman basic, if that person has more experience on the job than I do, I'm going to listen to what he or she has to say," said the sergeant, who has served in the active-duty Air Force and the Army Reserve before enlisting as an Air Force reservist.

Sometimes it's the "newbies" who offer the sage advice, said Master Sgt. Anthony Frazier, squadron operations superintendent from Oceanside, Calif.

"That's why flight leadership here encourages their troops to share ideas on how to improve unit operations. We get fresh eyes and new ideas with every rotation," explained the active-duty member deployed from Pope. "My biggest fear is that we don't stay attentive to what's happening out there. We need the fresh eyes to keep us aware of what we can be doing better."

One way the unit is doing things better is by offering a weapons cleaning and safety refresher course for newly deployed airmen from other career fields who are not accustomed to carrying weapons daily. This idea was brought forward, developed and implemented by the unit airmen's council.

"If no one ever came up with a better wheel, we'd see Lamborghinis racing with wagon wheels," said flight chief Tech. Sgt. Robert Ray Richards, a traditional reservist deployed from Hill. Richards used this metaphor during a recent guard mount to encourage his troops to share their ideas on how to improve unit operations.

To break up the days, squadron members play as hard as they work, which also helps with team cohesion -- security forces has maintained a tight hold on the camp volleyball championship since September.

"The unit's strong commitment to teamwork and innovation only make my job as the squadron commander easier," said Capt. David Lydon, a native of Claverack, N.Y. Lydon is an individual mobilization augmentee reservist deployed from Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass. "We have quality people here who make maintaining esprit de corps part of their daily mission."

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey is assigned to 455th Expeditionary Operations Group Public Affairs.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageAir Force Staff Sgt. Chad Marten and Airman Michael Roomsburg, Delta-5 External Security Response team, keep watch on construction work taking place on Runway Alpha at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. Members of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron provide a secure environment for Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine personnel and aircraft flying to and from the base. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Lindsey, USAF  
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