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The Commander's Shadows
by Army Staff Sgt. Anna Doo - September 29, 2011

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The Personal Security Detail forms a military formation. The members of the Personal Security Detail are Staff Sgt. Alvie Lucero, Spc. Albert Nelson, Spc. Leif Watkins, Spc. Tonna Harrison, Spc. Jude Gabaldon, Pfc. Christopher Byers. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Anna Doo, Sept. 17, 2011
The Personal Security Detail forms a military formation. The members of the Personal Security Detail are Staff Sgt. Alvie Lucero, Spc. Albert Nelson, Spc. Leif Watkins, Spc. Tonna Harrison, Spc. Jude Gabaldon, Pfc. Christopher Byers. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Anna Doo, Sept. 17, 2011
 PRISTINA, Kosovo (9/26/2011) - Always watching, always ready, always protecting. The mission of the Personal Security Detail is to protect and serve the commander. The three tenets of the PSD are to protect the commander from bodily injury or death, to protect from kidnapping and to protect from embarrassment. The team of ten soldiers is assigned to serve as the commander's senses while simultaneously maintaining a low profile.

Staff Sgt. Alvie Lucero, noncommissioned officer in charge, said they received additional training during pre-mobilization and ongoing training throughout the deployment on driving techniques, weapon handling techniques, urban operations and methods of blending in while simultaneously shielding the commander. As trained military police, each of the members of the PSD has a background in military law enforcement and the schooling that is required to be awarded the occupation. Some of the members have additional civilian training.

“I'm in law enforcement back home,” said Spc. Bernard Harrell. “I've worked as personal security detail with the Secret Service. It's more challenging on the military side because it can be more intense depending on the situation.”

That situation is wholly dependent on the location, time of day, posture of the local residents toward the commander, and a slew of additional factors that each member of the team must be aware of prior to ever jumping into their vehicles. Amongst their numerous daily duties, the PSD must reconnoiter unknown sites before the commander travels to them in order to understand the lay of the land, obstacles, threats and to be able to brainstorm entry and exit strategies should the need arise.

It's a job without accolades though, said Lucero. “There are many facets, but we are always in the back,” he said. “There's very little glory in it except for personal glory. We always have to show a presence but at the same time not be in the area.”

One of the key abilities of this team is their state of constant readiness. Many nights are short, and days are long.

“Everyone has an overnight bag packed,” said Spc. Jude Gabaldon, the assistant to the chief of staff. “Our gear is always staged, ready to go.”

The most difficult part of being a member of the close protection team is to explain their function and purpose to those who do not see them as a necessary entity, said Lucero. But on the flip side, the ability to work with so many other nations' protection teams is one of the best facets of the job, Gabaldon said. One example of this integration was during the Pristina 9/11 remembrance at the opera house in Pristina.

Gabaldon said, “At the opera the other night we got to work with the [Kosovo] president's close protection team. We get to be the first line of defense for other leaders. We work hand in hand with mayors. It's great to work with other nations. We got to work with the Germans and Austrians and others.”

This interaction and total coverage is what keeps the job exciting. Sgt. Kevin Wilkinson said he enjoys the constantly changing battle field.

He said, “One second we are in a city at a meeting with politicians. The next second we are in a helicopter going to the middle of nowhere. It's exciting being in an urban environment looking for the dangers and then in the natural environment looking for different dangers.”

The team members mentioned that being part of the PSD is a thinking person's game requiring them to be on alert at all times. This high operational tempo keeps the group in a ready state of preparedness to always fulfill their mission of keeping the commander safe and secure.

By Army Staff Sgt. Anna Doo
200th Public Affairs Detachment
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2011

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