355th SFS Airmen provide much needed protection down range
By Senior Airman Josh Slavin, 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 27, 2013
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Security Forces Airmen play a critical role in supporting the mission at D-M and down range. They are responsible for the safety and security of personnel, aircraft, and cargo.
Recently a group of 355th Security Forces Squadron Airmen returned from a deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Most commonly defenders will provide ground security without having to venture to far from or leave their assigned base. However during their deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, D-M defenders worked as members of fly-away security teams, Reaper teams, and in the joint defense operations center while also providing watch from the towers.
Airmen who are members of FAST are required to fly to locations with limited security, to ensure the safety of the aircrew and aircraft from hostile fire. These Airmen are responsible for protecting a wide range of objects such as hazardous materials, personnel under control, medical units and mission-essential personnel.
The mission required the young team of Airmen to constantly provide cover while trusting that their teammates had each other's back. With a majority of the team on their first FAST let alone their first deployment, team cohesion was vital.
"I would say the thing I was most proud of was the way our team was able to come together and remain undivided when there were plenty of opportunities for that to not be the case, " Staff Sgt. Curtis Stackpole, 355th SFS defender. This was Stackpole's first time as a FAST leader during his second deployment to Afghanistan.
Another responsibility of the D-M Airmen was to work on Reaper teams. The objective of these teams is to venture into the local community to seek out threats, respond to attacks or escort base leaders to visits with local officials.
"Our specific role was to patrol and monitor the near battle area," said Airman1st Class Jonathan Boone, 355th SFS defender. "If anything were to happen within [1,000 - 1,500 meters] we were the ones to handle it instead of having to tie up the units that were way out in the field."
Boone and his teammates were faced with unique challenges.
"The language barrier with the local populous was a big thing for us," Boone said. "We had translators but even that got to the point where it was difficult to understand with the thick accents and different dialects. It was an unfamiliar environment and we went from a place that we could pretty much tell something bad was about to happen to a place where we had no idea where the threats would come from."
Many defenders also provided security to the base from the JDOC and watch towers surrounding the base.
The JDOC is the command and control center for the air base. It contains monitoring and communication equipment and collaborates and coordinates all inside and outside base defense assets. Airmen that work outside the wire rely heavily on the JDOC for intelligence and instructions.
"All the information that comes to the JDOC from the sectors, Reaper teams, and the FAST teams would get sent up to the Colonel and then he would determine what to do next, "said Tech. Sgt. Donald Stoelting, 355th SFS defender.
After serving a tour down range these Airmen are returning with invaluable on-the-job training in multiple different areas. Many of them were on their first deployment and are ready to utilize their experience and knowledge to make D-M a safer place.
"Now that I'm back I will definitely be able to use the leadership skills that I learned to react quicker and recognize other people's weaknesses or strengths," said Jonathan Hodges, 355th Security Forces Squadron defender. "I will be able to help them or fill in the gap."