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The end of an era signals new beginnings for security forces

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Ninety-five security forces Airmen from around the country attended the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron's last Base Security Operations course at the Silver Flag Alpha Range Complex outside of Las Vegas Dec. 6-20, 2014.

The Airmen not only received critical pre-deployment skills during their course, but they unknowingly became part of history, bringing closure to a long line of defenders who came before them, and signaling the end of an era as the 99th GCTS prepares to close its doors in early 2015.

Since its first class in 1983, the primary mission of the 99th GCTS has been to prepare Security Forces Airmen for combat by instructing tactical courses aimed at providing Airmen with mission-specific skills to defend airbases around the globe. On average, the 99th GCTS conducts 10 to 12 courses per year, training approximately 3,000 students annually.

"We continuously update our training to include the newest tactics, techniques, and procedures for different theaters," said Tech. Sgt. Markus Mindoro, 99th Ground Combat Training integrated base defense flight chief. "This environment is perfect for teaching defenders what they need to know for missions they will face downrange."

The range complex where training takes place, known as Silver Flag Alpha, consists of 12 ranges capable of supporting all small arms fire in the Air Force inventory, a Military Operations in Urban Terrain village, a bare base tent city, and a maneuver area.

The last students to attend the 17-day BSO course here were Airmen from the 512th Security Forces Squadron at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, the 403rd SFS at Keesler AFB, Mississippi, and the 434th SFS at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana.  They learned 23 core security forces tasks as part of their pre-deployment training.

Among these tasks were base operations, land navigation, dismounted tactics and patrolling, vehicle convoys and mounted operations, urban operations, static defense, entry control point operations, and basic medical techniques they may be called to use as first responders.

"I've had a blast doing this training so far," said Senior Airman Luis Reyes, Base Security Operations course student. "The instructors make the information fun so that we are actively engaged. The training seems so real with all the simulated explosions and fire fights, which really helps."

Currently, the 99th GCTS is one of eight Security Forces Regional Training Centers that conduct a variety of courses designed to ensure SF Airmen accomplish their mission and training requirements both at home station and while deployed.

"Nothing can replace the job satisfaction you get when you see students return from a deployment, to include hearing from our leadership that our students used what we taught them downrange," Mindoro says. "This is my second time at an RTC, and the satisfaction I get is the same [as the first time]."

In preparing for the 99th GCTS closure, Air Force officials partnered with the U.S. Army, specifically the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, to create a center that would help align common security tactics, techniques and procedures used by all U.S. armed forces.

For Mindoro, the expected closure strikes close to home.

"I've taught at Silver Flag for three and a half years, and I love it," he says. "I will miss the esprit de corps that my team has built. We have a tight-knit and diverse group of cadre here."

Once the 99th GCTS and the other RTCs shut down, BSO training will be conducted at the new Desert Defender Ground Combat Readiness Training Center at Fort Bliss, Texas. The facility will be one of three RTCs dedicated to training all Air Force security forces Airmen, to include Air Reserve Command or Air National Guard members.

Although the location will change, Mindoro says the training students receive will still be the best the Air Force has to offer.

"I feel that our students have learned a lot and have shown they're able to apply [their knowledge] in the last 17 days at Silver Flag Alpha," he said.  "Every class we've taught, including the last class, has been a significant part of what we've done here."

For Mindoro, the closing of Silver Flag Alpha not only signals an end to a 31-year era but also that of his cadre status. He is expecting to move to a new assignment in early 2015.