Walking with the Reapers

  • Published
  • By Capt. Erika Yepsen
  • 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
With the sun rising over the mountains, Reaper Team 5 pointed their vehicles north and shifted gears mentally as they moved on to their next mission.

The team left Bagram Airfield in the dark of night, and wouldn't return until midday.

"At night our objective is primarily (to counter improvised explosive devices and indirect fire attacks), but during the day, we focus on presence patrols and engaging with locals to gauge the atmosphere in the area," said Master Sgt. Eddie Ray, the 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Reaper 5 team leader.

Engaging with the locals requires the Airmen of Reaper 5 to leave their armored vehicles to trek through the small villages and across fields in the hills near Bagram on dismounted patrols.

"Just driving around, you're not engaging the locals and you can't see much. Plus there's a lot that's just not passable in a vehicle," Ray said. "This way we get to know the locals a bit more and we can tell when something's going on."

When the vehicles arrived at their destination, the Airmen dismounted and checked their gear. Assured they had everything they needed, the Airmen set off through the village, stopping every so often to chat with locals and wave to the curious children watching them. Though language barriers make their interactions brief, the Airmen know their presence makes a difference.

"I know if I was trying to do something (against Bagram), and I saw all these trucks and guns everywhere, I probably wouldn't do it," said Airman 1st Class Kameryn Futral, 755th ESFS fire team member. "I think our presence also helps these kids know what Americans are like if their parents have told them they should hate us."

As they patrolled, Airmen handed out pens and candy to local children. Some of the local boys showed off their prowess with slingshots and let the Airmen try their hand at shooting some rocks. The engagement was typical for the team, Ray said.

Reaper 5 is one of several teams from the 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron responsible for the security of Bagram Airfield and its inhabitants. Each Reaper team consists of approximately 20 Airmen who work 12-hour shifts patrolling the nearly 180 square mile security zone outside of Bagram Airfield. The team leaders, like Ray, work with the squadron's leadership to prepare their team's missions for the week including routes, weapons and tactics to ensure the airfield is protected from all sides.

"The only way you're going to defend (Bagram) is to reach out into the local community," Ray said. "You're not going to stop it all, but the goal is to disrupt them and force them to use different routes and methods."