Defenders; part 1 of total force package series

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Steven Wilson
  • 36th Operations Group Public Affairs
The lone insurgent crawls on his belly toward the perimeter of the base. He is protected from observation by the thick jungle terrain. The mass of trees intermingled above his head form a protective canopy for his movements; the moonlight is all but obscured by rolling, lightning filled clouds on this humid tropical night. 

He tightens the carrying straps of the explosive laden, olive drab backpack strapped to his body. This adversary, a fundamentalist extremist, is dedicated beyond most normal human comprehension to breach the installation fence and detonate the cargo of death he's ferrying. His goal: to render a priority aircraft incapable of performing its mission and hopefully take a few Airmen with him. 

He scales the fence and sprints toward the parked aircraft being serviced by maintainers. Headed for his intended victims, a voice yells for the intruder to stop. 

He doesn't. 

The crisp bark of a gunshot pierces the sultry night air. The would-be bomber falls, his backpack spinning away from his body. Before he can reach it, several pairs of vehicles come to a screeching halt, their headlights illuminating the wounded suspect. He's quickly taken into custody and explosive ordnance disposal teams are called in to destroy the explosives.
Some may say this scenario is unrealistic. Andersen's security forces would probably disagree. 

"A few weeks ago we had an individual pull up to the main gate with an inert improvised explosive device and hand it to the guard," said Senior Master Sgt. Ray Johnson, 36th Security Forces Squadron operations superintendent. "He was pulled out of his vehicle and apprehended within seconds. 

"The area was safely evacuated and cordoned off within minutes," Sergeant Johnson continued. "It was a textbook response from the wing. Our training paid off, no one was hurt and the wing's mission was not affected." 

The assertive response carried out by security forces in that situation is the typical mindset of Andersen's defenders, according to Sergeant Johnson, himself a 26-year security forces veteran. He said his squadron is dedicated to the defense of Andersen itself, the protection level assets here, and Andersen's Airmen and their families. 

"The more proactive and aggressive we are with integrated base defense translates into force protection for our base," said Sergeant Johnson. "For instance, one of my patrolmen recently did a routine traffic stop for a seatbelt violation. One of the occupants had several felony warrants for his arrest. This person was dangerous." 

The security forces here have expanded their mission to ensure a razor sharp focus on top-notch force protection for Andersen. 

Some of those expanded missions include the all-volunteer jungle enforcement team operations and the high intensity tactics team, which is equivalent to a civilian police department's SWAT team. 

"We provide force protection for the entire wing," Sergeant Johnson explained. "If we're not responding to a domestic (disturbance), we're apprehending poachers (during JET-OPS) and sometimes even illegal immigrants." 

Last year during joint JET-OPS with civilian agencies, 23 poachers were arrested and 16 weapons were confiscated, said Sergeant Johnson. 

These forays into Guam's jungle have other benefits as well. It's all about keeping the skills of the local blue berets keen and honed to a fine edge. 

"We're getting a lot of brand new Airmen," Sergeant Johnson said, noting a lot of his newly enlisted first term cops are already in Iraq. "You've got to keep them sharp and trained. What better way to instill confidence than to send a young defender out in a pitch black jungle against an armed suspect? 

"You bet we're probably a little more aggressive here than other bases," he surmised. "But the integrated base defense concepts we use here translate into cops that are more aggressive in detection of the bad guys while deployed. That saves lives." 

Sergeant Johnson remarked the deployed mission is a constant for security forces. Last week, his unit sent 28 Airmen to Iraq.
"I'm extremely proud of our deployed defenders downrange," he said. "Every parent of all our deployers gets a letter from me. I tell them how proud I am of their son or daughter and note the great things they're doing in the desert and here at home station." 

Those deployments are intense at times. 

"Seventeen of our people actually flew in with the Army by helicopter (from a staging base) to Iraq just yesterday," said Sergeant Johnson. "The details of what they're doing are unclear, but we know they're actively operating in a joint environment with the Army." 

Joint operations are steadfastly becoming a reality for security forces members. 

"Our K-9 cops were attached to some Army units in Iraq," Sergeant Johnson said. "They were kicking down doors and finding weapons caches. One handler and his dog were assigned to the Marines and got into more than a few firefights." 

The contributions by security forces to support the flying mission are not lost on the aviation community, especially the B-2 Spirit crews. Their boss said he's very aware of that blanket of protection the 36th SFS provides. 

"Our airframe has some unique security requirements," said Lt. Colonel John Vitacca, 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander. "I really appreciate what they do for us. The bottom line is if a terrorist or armed adversary damages our aircraft we can't accomplish the flying mission. Our defenders have my sincere and personal thanks for their efforts." 

The Andersen security forces are actively supporting the continued bomber presence in the Western Pacific, which is aimed at maintaining a prudent deterrent capability to any potential aggressor in the region.