SOUTHWEST ASIA -- As the two security forces Airmen receive their weapons from the armory, they go over the days plan. Today, they will cover more than 1,800 miles, stop in two different countries and then return home within 10 hours.
Armed and geared up, they proceed to their transportation for the day, a C-130 Hercules.
This is not a typical patrol because Tech. Sgt. Brian Mills and Senior Airman Kenneth Gordon are not ordinary cops. They are assigned to the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadrons fly away security team at a forward-deployed location.
With daily airlift throughout Southwest Asia and the Horn of Africa, U.S. aircraft are constantly flying in and out of unsecured locations. When necessary, they bring along a two- to four-person team for security.
Our mission is to protect the aircraft and crew through flight deck denial and ground security, said Sergeant Mills, FAST program coordinator. Some of the places we fly into have no security whatsoever, so if an aircraft were to breakdown or encounter hostilities on the ground, we are it.
During the past three months, teams have flown on 115 combat missions to 12 different countries, escorting more than 5,000 passengers, most of whom were Iraqis.
Within the 386th ESFS, the program is 100-percent voluntary, with Airmen participating on fly away missions on their scheduled days off.
We have no problem getting volunteers, said Sergeant Mills who is deployed from the 3rd Security Forces Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. Since the majority of our (Airmen) are deployed here for six months, these missions offer us something different from the daily routine, as well as a change of scenery.
Working with limited resources, the program applies many of the tools that are taught at Air Mobility Warfare Centers two-week Phoenix Raven course at Fort Dix, N.J. Although these skills cannot be learned overnight, the teams are always balanced, having at least one experienced person and a noncommissioned officer.
In the raven course, they teach us to use verbal judo to work our way through a situation, said Airman Gordon, a reserve Ravan deployed from the 910th SFS at Youngstown, Ohio. On these missions, we are security police, ambassadors and humanitarians all at the same time.
Many of the areas the teams fly into have never had Americans and U.S. military aircraft in them, so what the Airmen do or how they act can make or break an areas perception of the United States.
We have to be friendly and flexible yet cautious. The majority of the interest we draw is just curiosity, Airman Gordon said. Going into an area, we have to understand the local customs and courtesies. Simple things like hand gestures or body posture can quickly change a person from friendly to offended.
Everyones jobs are magnified when flying in a combat environment, and for the C-130 loadmasters, the fly away team is a welcomed asset.
When we are flying foreign nationals, you never know who might be that wolf in sheeps clothing, said Tech. Sgt. John Daniel, 386th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster. Even though the crew is armed, it makes things a lot easier knowing they are there watching our backs.
Loadmasters love when we are on flights with them. They know they can focus on preparing the aircraft and watching for surface to air fire, Sergeant Mills said. We protect them, so they can protect us.
The program is one of four that provide airlift security throughout the region.