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Patriotic Article
War and Tragedy
By Van E. Harl

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Extend Service To Terrorists – Yes: To Americans – No
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One of my readers sent me a message in reference to a business in Philadelphia that had the following on its sign out front of their office location.

“We would rather do business with 1000 Al Qaeda Terrorists than with one single American.”

My first reaction was what anti-Bush, what anti-US Government; what anti-military left-wing liberal would put this trash on a sign in their store front and hope to increase business?

It was a funeral home.
 

Van E. Harl
Van E. Harl

I guess even in the death care industry, there can be humor. Sadly the day I received the e-mail I had been in two funeral homes. The first one was by mistake when I went to the wrong location. I knew I got the second location correct because as I pulled into the parking lot I spotted the uniforms of Air Force “cops” and private contract security officers.

Jerry Kidd, a security officer with the contractor that provides entry control and base security for Altus Air Force Base, had died of a heart attack hours before he was to man his post at the north gate of the air base. I knew Jerry because I talked to him three and four times a day as I drove into base housing through his gate. He had a background in civilian law enforcement and had worked base security for over two years.

Being an old retired Air Force “cop” sometimes I get the feeling that as people roll through the gates of almost all Air Force bases and are met by a civilian “security guard” they incorrectly believe they have just encountered “Pop, the night watchman.” Some untrained person who is able to stay awake and carry a gun, “do you suppose he has real bullets in that gun”? Yes there is live ammo in those handguns, but more importantly these security officers are trained and state certified to protect our military bases and you. The reason for having contract security at Air Force bases is to free up the active duty Security Forces “cops” and send them forward to the war.

This is a double edged sword though. The Air Force Security Forces career field is the most over used and in some cases abused job an Airman can currently be assigned to, in my big Air Force. We buried our fifth Air Force “cop” killed in this war two weeks ago. What you are not hearing is that among the dead of this war we are continually burying contract civilians along with the men and women in uniform who are dying.

In the middle of the first Gulf war (1990-91), the US started to down size the entire Department of Defense (DOD). The Navy had over 600 ships in 1990 and now it has less than 300. And remember we are in a global war on terrorism that takes a big ocean going military to prosecute this fighting. The Air Force Security Forces career field was once the largest police force in the free world, only the KGB was bigger. Today these “cops” are needed in double and triple strength around the world and of course they too have been down-sized.

So what has happened is this current war has become a “contractor's war”. The US military does not have enough troops even with the Guard and Reserve being called to active duty to meet the needs of this war. So we hire civilians to move in and take over many of the support jobs that GIs would have done in past wars. Security of military bases is one of those major support jobs (especially at bases inside the US) that are being contracted out. The US military cannot do its day-to-day peacetime mission without its DOD civilians and contract support. But even more important to remember, in time of war they would fail without “civilian” efforts.

The first line of defense for most state-side air bases is contract security officers. These men and women are an integral part of the war on terrorism. They are serving and protecting our air bases and our nation. Jerry Kidd was a part of that civilian team that is on duty 24 hours a day protecting Altus AFB, so the base can safely fulfill the mission of training aircrew members, who will fly and fight to protect our nation. To Jerry Kidd's family – I am so sorry for your loss. We must always remember Security Officer Kidd was serving and protecting Altus AFB. Jerry you will not be forgotten.

By Van E. Harl
Copyright 2007

About Author:
Major Van E. Harl, USAF Ret., was a career police officer in the U.S. Air Force. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Major Harl is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School, the Air Force Squadron Officer School and the Air Command and Staff College. After retiring from the Air Force he was a state police officer in Nevada.

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