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Controllers - Defending The Base
by USAF Tech. Sgt. Vernon Cunningham - March 27, 2012

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Staff Sgt. Leonard Sherwood reports surveillance data to Security Forces units at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Feb. 16, 2012. Sherwood is a controller with the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and is deployed from Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Controllers remotely monitor Bagram's perimeter for potential threats and report all security violations to security forces, allowing them to take defensive action. Photo by USAF Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom
Staff Sgt. Leonard Sherwood reports surveillance data to Security Forces units at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Feb. 16, 2012. Sherwood is a controller with the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and is deployed from Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Controllers remotely monitor Bagram's perimeter for potential threats and report all security violations to security forces, allowing them to take defensive action. Photo by USAF Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom

 BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (3/22/2012) - Simple in focus and repetitive in duties, several missions on Bagram are woven into the day-to-day operation of the base in such a way that most people may see or hear of them once and then not interact with them the rest of their deployment. These are the missions where airmen perform the same one or two tasks all day, over and over, as a full-time job and without much reprieve.

As mundane as that may seem, these warriors are critical to enabling all missions on base by providing our continual presence in the country. These duties are critical elements in our base defense. This is part three of a four-part series highlighting Bagram Air Field missions that may seem small but have a tremendous impact in defending the base.

Controllers work primarily from the command post and monitor perimeter security by watching a combination of remote cameras and the fence line's tactical automated security system. They also relay critical information between Bagram warfighting units and dispatch response teams to perceived threats.

"Anything and everything that happens on that perimeter comes through us first," said Staff Sgt. Leonard Sherwood, 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron controller. "The controller is the middle person between the perimeter defenders and the support agencies needed to defend the base."

The controller utilizes communication radios, monitors unclassified and classified internet traffic, and relies on thorough shift change briefings to stay mindful of where assets are located and what they are doing at any time.

"You got to know where your people are," said Sherwood. "We have to keep track of what patrols are offline, who is in the towers, who services which zones, and so on."

With this information, the controllers ensure everyone is where they need to be and all assets are supplied and ready to defend the base. For this mission, the 455th ESFS has to ensure they are placing the right kind of personnel in the position.

"The people in the controller position have to be above and beyond," said Master Sgt. Corey Nielsen, 455th ESFS non-commissioned officer in charge. "They have to be able to multitask. It is very busy. They have to be able to communicate clearly and quickly. They must be able to talk to higher ranking individuals calmly and professionally.

"The airmen who work this position are absolute professionals," he said. "I have the utmost respect for them. They are a critical element of our first-line threat detection."

Ever vigilant, controllers operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Sometimes it gets quiet," said Sherwood. "You soak up those quiet moments. You don't know when it's coming around again. Especially in a deployed location and the mission we have here. Things may pop off real fast...no notice. You just have to be ready to react. To go from eating lunch into jumping into action, running checklists, making notifications and doing what you are supposed to do...to take control.

"The mission couldn't succeed without the controllers being able to relay information," he said. "The Joint Defense Operation Center is the central control position, everything ultimately goes through them. But, they can't do it on their own. We are their eyes to the perimeter. We help keep Bagram safe."

Sherwood has served in security forces for 12 years and is on his third deployment. This is his first deployment to Afghanistan.

By USAF Tech. Sgt. Vernon Cunningham
455th Air Expeditionary Wing
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2012

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