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Security Forces Undergoing Transformation

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Air Force Security Forces

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Airman 1st Class Carin Brigham stands ready to ensure base perimeter security here. Airman 1st Class Erick Martinez backs her up with a M240 machine gun. Both Airmen are in the 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron.

Official USAF Photo
Updated January 22, 2006

by Senior Airman J.G. Buzanowski

As the Air Force continues to adapt for the future, changes to the security forces career field will affect the total force.

Brig. Gen. Robert Holmes, director of security forces and force protection, calls these transformations a “refocus” on how his people train and fight.

“We’re not in the Cold War anymore; we have to alter our mentality and our practices for today’s reality,” the general said. “Because of the nature of the threat, our Airmen are fighting the global war on terror on the front lines, and we owe it to them to provide training, equipment and resources to be effective.”

Essentially, security forces will focus on preparing for their warfighting mission at forward locations, as well as security at a fixed installation, General Holmes said.

As an example, he cited an Air Force task force that operated around Balad Air Base, Iraq, for two months last year. The unit patrolled the local towns and found weapons caches as well as individuals who posed a threat to the base.

“Our Airmen are going ‘outside the wire’ to conduct missions and are proving successful in keeping people safe,” General Holmes said. “Not only for the folks stationed at the base, but people who live and work in the local area as well. This is very important in the present war on terror.”

Security forces must learn counterinsurgency techniques to operate more effectively in joint operations, said Maj. Gen. Norman Seip, assistant deputy chief of staff for air and space operations.

“We need to be prepared for a full spectrum of threats against an air field,” General Seip said. “That means taking more responsibility for defense of our mission, so our sister services can concentrate on their own tasks. We need to understand how they operate, so we’re working closely with the Army to identify additional ways to train our Airmen.”

While security forces will focus more on their warfighting competencies, Air Force leaders are reviewing several options for installation protection duties, such as entry control, at home stations. Plans call for more DOD civilians, greater affiliation with Guard and Reserve and better use of technologies, General Holmes said.

The changes to the security forces career field will present the opportunity for other Airmen to participate in installation security. While that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will have a rotation checking identification cards at a gate, it does mean more comprehensive training, awareness and capability to respond and participate, he said.

“Will every Airman be a cop? No. But every Airman will be a warrior,” General Holmes said. “Every Airman needs to be trained in basic force protection skills and must be prepared to defend an air base and themselves in the event of an attack. This means more than just qualifying with a weapon. We want Airmen to be comfortable with their duty weapon and to develop their shooting skills.”

While definitive plans have not been finalized, General Holmes also said one of the transformation goals is bringing security forces back in step with standard Air Force 120-day deployments.

“Right now our folks are going out for 179-day rotations,” he said. “Our Airmen need time to reconstitute and train. So it’s important to get them in line with the rest of the Air Force. We aim to do just that.”

Overall, General Holmes said the changes would make security forces more effective and relevant to Air Force needs in the face of the current changing nature of warfare.

“We want to make our Airmen more proficient, and to do that, we need to adapt,” General Holmes said. “We’re going to change our training, our tactics and our procedures and the Air Force will be better for it.”

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