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Federal police officer doubles as anti-terrorism protection officer at AFSOUTH

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kelly Ogden
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Public Affairs
Most of the time you'll find Yvette Orellana serving as a federal police officer for the U.S. Forest Service in sunny, Santa Barbara, Calif., patrolling in her squad car, writing tickets, protecting natural resources, as well as serving her local community as a mentor to teens heading down the wrong path.

One might assume that in her off-time in federal law enforcement she'd enjoy a quieter life of reading books, walking alongside the beach or just enjoying a slower pace; however, nothing could be further from the truth because in her "down-time" she trades in her police uniform for camouflage and serves as an anti-terrorism officer for 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern).

Tech. Sgt. Yvette Orellana, who have served in the USAF for 11-years as both active-duty and an individual mobilization augmentee (IMA) in the security forces career field, has had several deployments and assignments that have taken her all over the world; however, her current position in the 12th AF (AFSOUTH) Force Protection Office is regarded as her best assignment to date.

Orellana says that as an Airman she didn't get to see behind the scenes and didn't always understand the operational and tactical direction that she was given; however her time here at AFSOUTH (air component to U.S. Southern Command), has opened up her eyes to the level of time, effort, and operational planning that goes into making every mission and/or exercise a success.

For Orellana, operating as traditional squadron-level security forces versus working at the Numbered Air Force (NAF) was like night and day.

"In a traditional security forces squadron I belong to a unit and would serve as either a team leader or a fire team leader," Orellana said. "Here the job is totally different, you aren't just protecting the base - you're in charge of all of the security for Department of Defense personnel in our area of responsibility (AOR)."

The most difficult part of her job is getting people to realize that there are dangers in their environment, and practicing operational security (OPSEC) at all times.

"We do things that are for other people's own good, but they don't always see that until something bad happens," she says. "We have the responsibility of making sure everyone follows regulations and policy for equipment storage, weapons accountability and equipment accountability because if it gets stolen it falls on us."

During a recent deployment in support of New Horizons Belize, an annual civil engineering and medical event overseen by U.S. Southern Command, and planned and executed by its air arm, (AFSOUTH), Orellana deployed for four-months as the anti-terrorism officer for several medical readiness training exercises where she assessed vulnerabilities, coordinated and supervised more than 50 Belizean Defence Force members and provided security and vulnerability assessments on all of the schools, hospitals, hotels and restaurants that the task force planned on visiting. Her favorite part of the deployment was interacting with the locals and learning their culture.

Having a father from Guatemala and being able to speak fluent Spanish has assisted her in removing a little bit of the culture divided between U.S. service members and our partner nations in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, which assists in creating partnerships and long-lasting friendships; however, the fact that she is a female is sometimes somewhat of a conundrum to some of the male dominated militaries abroad.

"It's a double-edged sword because some of the countries we visit have very male dominated militaries and by my position, I often have to interact with their higher echelon leaders," Orellana says. "The U.S. is very diverse in the fact that a man and woman can do the same job (if qualified), and I think that we are kind of showing these other countries that if given the opportunity, a woman can succeed in any position."

Orellana is breaking down doors and busting through stereotypes...a drive and passion that she takes with her when she mentors teenage girls at the Sunburst Academy, which is run by the California Army National Guard.

The academy is a 6-month live-in academy for youth who might've dropped out of school, got in trouble, or just headed down the wrong path. Orellana recently mentored a 16-years-old teenage girl who was behind in credits in school and was hanging out with the wrong crowd.

"She was a good student, but you could see the path that she was going down," said Orellana. "We connected over Guatemala and the fact that we had come from a similar environment and background...but, I obviously chose a different path. It's inspiring and it makes you feel good to teach someone about making good decisions and reinforcing those decisions positively."

The teenager that she mentored is now caught up on her credits and scheduled graduate early this year.