The Air Force Security Forces are the military police of the Air Force and are responsible for safeguarding the lives of the men and women and military property on base around the clock. These Air Force Military police have a difficult and highly responsible task of protecting nuclear or conventional weapons, as well as Air Force One from hostile forces. The Security Forces are trained for off the base scenarios as well, such as securing the transfer of military personnel and equipment through unsafe zones in combat areas.
All Security Forces students will attend training at the Air Force Security Forces Academy at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. This is a 65-day course where the students will learn basic military police functions, including missile security, convoy actions, capture and recovery of nuclear weapons, law enforcement and directing traffic. It also briefs students on tactics such as using pepper spray or engaging someone's pressure points—both strategies that don't involve lethal force.
Though learning how to implement deadly force to react to a situation is required in this training, the Security Forces students must also learn nonlethal tactics, such as using pepper spray, and pressure points on a body to detain people when needed for lesser crimes and instances. The Security Forces are also about safeguarding and saving lives by learning to perform life-saving procedures like CPR when acting as first-responders to an accident or disaster situation.
According to Col. Patrick M. (Mike) Kelly, commander of the Headquarters Air Force Security Forces Center, the course was expanded after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to ensure that security forces students received all the training required to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.
“Within weeks of getting to their first base, [security forces Airmen] are put out to post [by] themselves,” said Tech. Sgt. Steven Thompson. “We want to try to get them… prepared, so they can go from here, do their initial in-processing, do some initial training specific to their base and send them to work.” The goal is to produce a “much more experienced, much more proficient Airman,” Col. Kelly added.
Sgt. Thompson said that the Air Force wanted to expose trainees to more subject areas and skill sets, among them missile security and law enforcement. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks made lengthening the course and expanding the subject areas covered a priority. In addition to missile security and law enforcement, the course also includes instruction on communications equipment, patrolling, and use of hand grenades and military operations in cities.
Col. Mary Kay Hertog played a role in developing the course. “This was all a result of Colonel Hertog having gone to Iraq and [seeing] where there were training deficiencies, coming back when she was the Air Combat Command security forces director and telling us we [needed] to add this stuff to our course,” Col. Kelly said.
Before the course launched, those involved in its development made sure everything was in order—from the course materials to the test questions and training scenarios. Anything that needed to be polished was. “We’re kind of fleshing things out to make sure we’ve got everything in order the way it should be, with the right material teaching the right things,” Col. Kelly explained.
Enrollment and Opportunities
Sgt. Thompson said the classes had the same amount of students previously enrolled, but teachers became responsible for more courses. This allowed instructors to teach more students and, thus, more students to train simultaneously. More classes and more students required the addition of roughly 20 instructors and 37 vehicles. New accommodations were also required as a result.
Col. Kelly had high hopes for the lengthier and more expansive course. “I think it’s going to be great for the career field,” he said. “I think commanders are going to be happy with the troops they get out of here.”
Some of the advanced training the Air Force Security Forces receive are working with military dogs as well as providing perimeter security, and reconnaissance missions and other special operations by becoming members of the Close Precision Engagement Team (CEPT). These Airmen are highly-trained shooter/spotter pairs who also perform sniper and counter-sniper missions in order to defend U.S. Air Bases at home and around the world.