MILDENHALL, England - A young airman prepares himself for his shift. Manning his post in the cold, his heart skips a beat as he sees his commander approaching, knowing he'll need to deliver a briefing. In that half second, his brain fires into high gear, reviewing his training and creating a mental checklist.
His mission is to protect, defend and fight. He thinks about the weapons and equipment he's using, what his current post protects and anything else the commander may need to know. In the span of a single second, he's filled with the confidence he needs to deliver his post-briefing.
A day in the life of a security forces Airman can be frightening, stressful and outright nerve-racking, but without them, the missions on RAF Mildenhall wouldn't be possible.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Justin Aguilar, right, 100th Security Forces Squadron flight chief from Escondido, Calif., delivers a briefing March 6, 2014, during guard mount on RAF Mildenhall, England. Prior to each shift, security forces airmen gather together to receive updates, briefings and necessary information. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Preston Webb)
“Our Airmen are definitely the most valuable asset we have,” said Master Sgt. Justin Aguilar, 100th Security Forces Squadron flight chief from Escondido, Calif. “A brand new airman, who's been in the military all of five months, could be empowered with the responsibility of securing the gate and the millions of dollars of assets on base.”
After passing through the gates numerous times a day, many Team Mildenhall members may take gate guards for granted.
“You see someone out in the cold, freezing, but people may not think about it. Especially when something might happen where traffic could get backed up,” said Senior Airman Michael Clarke Jr., 100th SFS patrolman from Miami.
Gate guards serve as the front line of defense against intruders who try to hinder Team Mildenhall missions, Aguilar said. The 100th SFS enables other squadrons on RAF Mildenhall to complete their mission by providing a secure operating environment.
“Just their presence is a physical and psychological deterrent to anyone who would try to gain access to our installation,” Aguilar said. “They're out there — physically — engaging the public, checking ID cards, and psychologically deterring anyone who may be watching for a way to get on base.”
The 100th SFS airmen check ID cards, patrol the base, check buildings, respond to emergencies and do anything else necessary to provide a safe environment.
Security forces Airmen work in cycles of six days of eight-hour shifts, followed by three days off, Aguilar said. Airmen have to spend roughly an additional hour before each shift preparing by checking out weapons, equipping gear and receiving briefings.
They also spend about an hour each day after their shift checking their equipment back in, conducting training and catching up on emails, Clarke said. Airmen also exercise with their flight three times per cycle.
Because of their different work cycle, Clarke said it's difficult for Airmen to maintain friendships with anyone who, not only isn't a cop, but isn't on the same rotation as they are.
“Having different hours definitely limits how much you can hang out with people from different career fields,” Clarke said. “Even within my flight, since there are three different elements, it's hard to plan things at the flight level because we're all off on different days.”
While their job is very demanding, it's rewarding and essential to all missions on base, Clarke said.
“I like the excitement and action of responding to a scene. I'm not happy if there's a situation, but it gets your blood pumping,” Clarke said. “Being able to help people feels good.”
The flight chief adds to Clarke's sentiment, emphasizing the importance of the 100th SFS airmen and their vital role in enabling every mission on base.
“I couldn't do my job as a flight chief without exemplary, motivated Airmen,” Aguilar said. “They're the ones out in the vehicles, standing at the gates, securing the base and executing the mission.”
By U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Preston Webb
Provided through DVIDS
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