AFCENT Force Protection, defenders safeguard service members, mission

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. R. Alex Durbin
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command
In the constantly changing landscape of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command battlespace, one thing remains constant – U.S. Air Force security forces Airmen stand vigilant at installations across Southwest Asia day and night.

To ensure these defenders can remain prepared for any threat, the AFCENT Force Protection directorate at the Combined Air Operations Center here acts as the nexus of Air Force security operations across the area of responsibility. The staff provides the guidance and support to ensure security forces personnel can protect personnel, assets and, ultimately, the mission.

"Our No. 1 priority is to support the warfighter,” said Col. Michael Gimbrone, the AFCENT Force Protection director. “Our goal is to provide a mission-ready, resilient and air-minded security force, organized, trained and equipped to deliver enduring, integrated defense against threats to Air Force, joint and coalition missions.”

To achieve this, the AFCENT Force Protection directorate uses an interdisciplinary team of logistics, intelligence, anti-terrorism and security forces specialists to identify, counter and neutralize threats to Air Force, joint and coalition personnel and assets. These specialists provide a comprehensive skillset to support defense force commanders at installations across the AFCENT area of responsibility with a complete picture of operational considerations.

“No one person can look at a whole battlespace and have all of the answers,” said Chief Master Sgt. Steven Thompson, the AFCENT Force Protection security forces manager. “We try to look at both sides of the coin to find a solid way ahead.”

The force protection staff also provides guidance and policy support to defense force commanders at the squadron level to help day-to-day operations run smoothly. To ensure the unique needs at each installation are understood and met, the directorate holds a biannual force protection coordination board that brings leaders from each security forces unit across the AOR together for a two-day conference.

Gimbrone said the board aims to provide engagement opportunities between the AFCENT staff and defense force commanders and security forces managers to ensure security forces leaders in the field have the appropriate information, guidance and support they need to execute their missions.

“Our staff exists to support the forces in the field, not the other way around,” Gimbrone said. “Ultimately, it’s our security forces units that have the responsibility of keeping AFCENT personnel and resources safe and secure, and the board is an opportunity to reinforce to them that our force protection staff is committed to doing everything we can to give them the support to enable them to do just that.”

During the two-day board, experts from various sectors of the security forces career field come together to share information and participate in forums to innovate and improve security processes in the field.

“We want to show the rest of the (Defense Department) that Air Force security forces is a viable force and we’re willing to take on new missions and can do them quickly and effectively,” Thompson said. “We want to show that we’re committed to keeping not just AFCENT personnel and resources secure, but also keeping other DOD and coalition partners well defended.”

Thompson said this attitude is engrained in the security forces way of life.

“When we work with joint and coalition partners, our defenders can put aside the color of the uniform or the nationality and work as a team,” he said. “Our career field is all about the fact that it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you have my back and I have your back. When we come together, the job gets done.”

According to Gimbrone, this ability to aid joint and international partners has a wide-reaching affect.

“This truly is both a joint and coalition effort to be able to conduct the missions across the AOR,” he said. “The ability to take the fight to the enemy in Mosul and other places could not happen at the same level if we did not have joint and coalition efforts. Across the AOR, our defenders are working side-by-side with forces from the other branches of the Department of Defense and forces from other nations to keep our locations secure.”

While battlefield and adversary may continue to change, Gimbrone said one thing is certain – he, his staff and the security forces Airmen will continue supporting the fight wherever they are needed.

“As long as there is a need for the U.S. to have a presence in the AFCENT AOR, there will be a need for Air Force security forces to be here accomplishing the mission,” he said. “As we move forward, we will continue to see great accomplishments by security forces as they defend against the enemy wherever they may be. Certainly it would be ideal to have a day where we could have a stabilized, enduring posture in the AOR and not have to deal with emerging locations or an ever-evolving enemy, but until that is the case, then there will be SF in the AOR keeping our personnel, resources and missions safe and secure.”