Many Airmen, one mission: 'Defend the Base'
JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- Airman 1st Class Kyle Ellsworth issues a temporary vehicle pass to Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Kane at the Housing 6 Entry Control Point here July 28. The newly activated 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group will assume responsibility for entry control points, the badging office, law enforcement and other inside- and outside-the-wire missions pertaining to base defense. Airman Ellsworth, a security forces apprentice with the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron here, is deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England. Sergeant Kane is deployed from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, N.Y. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)
by Staff Sgt. Don Branum
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
7/28/2008 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFPN) -- The 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group activated here July 24, and while made up of many Airmen, the group's purpose is singular: "Defend the Base."
The 332nd ESFG will assume every aspect of base defense, including the Joint Defense Operations Center, the Quick Reaction Force, base perimeter gates and areas outside the wire.
The group, which is made up of Airmen from several career fields, will also cooperate with the Army's 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, whose Soldiers are responsible for the battlespace outside Joint Base Balad.
"We are all joined together with a singular focus on defending the base," said Col. John "J.D." Decknick, the 332nd ESFG's first commander. "We know our role is to support that mission and that mission only. We have great synergy because we're 'joined to fight.'"
The activation marks the first time the Air Force has deployed such a large security forces unit to defend an airbase since the Vietnam conflict.
Insurgents' tactics today mirror those usedby the Viet Cong against airbases like Phu Cat Air Base in South Vietnam, Colonel Decknick said.
"The enemy doesn't recognize a nation-state boundary. Airbases are not islands in the rear area that require less protection -- they're in the middle of the fight," Colonel Decknick said. "Like in Vietnam, the United States was fighting an insurgency that could launch mortars and rockets against us. The forward edge of the battle area is undefined."
The similarity of enemy tactics has revived the need for integrated base defense. The veteran 1st Battalion, 77th Armor Regiment prepared the battlefield for the arrival of Task Force 1041 and the commencement of Operation Desert Safeside in early 2005.
Named after the 1041st SPS(T), Task Force 1041 conducted 338 combat patrols, 56 sniper insertions, 26 direct action patrols and 131 hasty raids in a two-month period. Their actions led to the capture of 17 high-value enemies, eight major arms caches and more than 100 heavy weapons. Indirect fire attacks against the base also dwindled.
"Task Force 1041 showed that Air Force security forces can augment our Army brothers to defend airbases in a combat environment, anywhere and at any time," Colonel Decknick said. "TF 1041 proved to joint commanders that when properly organized, trained and equipped, Air Force security forces have a lot to offer to the joint fight."
The Airmen of TF 1041 came largely from the 820th Security Forces Group at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., which Colonel Decknick commanded from June 2005 to January 2008. The 820th SFG was one of the first Air Force security forces units to participate in outside-the-wire missions.
"They're normal cops and Airmen from other career fields who get additional training," Colonel Decknick said.
In order to perform outside-the-wire missions, Airmen must learn how to shoot, move and communicate more effectively, react to ambushes from the front or rear, apply combat lifesaver skills, use Blue Force Tracker to track friendly and enemy units, move tactically as flights and squads and call in medevac requests, Colonel Decknick said.
"Air Force security forces, with the 820th SFG as an example, are ready to go now," Colonel Decknick said. "We are organized, trained and equipped to do this mission now."
Three Airmen deployed from the 820th SFG -- Capt. Ian Dinesen, Senior Master Sgt. Ron Hall and Staff Sgt. Brett Darby -- are building the foundations for the rest of the group. Each recognizes the historic significance of activating an expeditionary security forces group.
"It's humbling, daunting, exciting -- it's a myriad of several different emotions wrapped into an intense, fast-paced package," Captain Dinesen said. "I'm having one heck of a time with it; it's awesome."
As the noncommissioned officer in charge of intelligence, Sergeant Hall is developing the group's intelligence capabilities and situational awareness.
"This whole war is intel-driven," Sergeant Hall said. "I'm here to give our people the right information to keep everyone safe."
Sergeant Darby, a combat technology NCO, ensures that intelligence is available to Airmen on the ground.
"There are a lot of threats outside the wire," Sergeant Darby said. "The most important job for me is to make sure they have the best equipment they can have when they go out there so that they can come home."
All three Airmen have previous experience in Iraq. In terms of experience and motivation, they reflect the 332nd ESFG as a whole, Colonel Decknick said.
"This is not their first rodeo -- they are highly motivated and excited to see that they're finally going to be able to put their training to the test," Colonel Decknick said. "We're looking forward to teaming with our U.S. Army and coalition counterparts to focus our efforts on 'Defending the Base.'"
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