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Army National Guard begins air base security mission

WASHINGTON -- A soldier from the Army National Guard's 276th Military Police Company in Washington checks identification at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., on Feb. 21. Up to 10,000 soldiers will help secure Air Force installations worldwide while the Air Force phases in plans to beef up its own security forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt.  Jim Varhegyi)

WASHINGTON -- A soldier from the Army National Guard's 276th Military Police Company in Washington checks identification at Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., on Feb. 21. Up to 10,000 soldiers will help secure Air Force installations worldwide while the Air Force phases in plans to beef up its own security forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

WASHINGTON -- Look closely as you drive through base entry gates and you may notice a different style rank insignia on the security guard -- that of the Army National Guard.

The organization is deploying up to 10,000 soldiers to help secure Air Force installations worldwide. This is in response to a Defense Department announcement Dec. 16 that assigns Guardsmen to air bases for up to two years while the Air Force phases in plans to beef up its own security forces.

While the arrival of the Guardsmen varies by installation, approximately 70 members of the National Guard's 276th Military Police Company from Washington began patrolling Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., on Feb. 17.

Not all soldiers who will guard air bases possess the MP occupational specialty, but officials say each soldier's basic military and mobilization training qualifies them for the tasks they will be assigned.

Specifically, soldiers will perform installation entry control duty, conduct vehicle searches and random anti-terrorism measures, and perimeter security patrols. Soldiers will not perform such supervisory duties as desk sergeant, security controller and alarm monitor, nor work in such specialized posts as confinement, investigations or as military working dog handlers.

The soldiers are adjusting rapidly to their new assignment, said Army Staff Sgt. Nathaniel L. Metts, noncommissioned officer in charge of training for the 276th MPC.

"We have the same goals and same mission," he said. "None of my soldiers (have) said they don't like working with the Air Force."

One of the biggest challenges the soldiers faced while working at Bolling was learning the Air Force "language."

"It's similar, for the most part," Metts said, "but in two or three days we learned Air Force forms and the customs and courtesies."

Before deploying to Bolling, the MPs spent about a week at Fort A.P. Hill, Va., with a team of 11th Security Forces Squadron trainers who taught the soldiers the Air Force way of doing business.

"They represent about half of our (security) flights," said Maj. Kirk H. Baur, individual mobilization augmentee to the 11th SFS commander. "That gives us a lot of capability as we deploy (our active-duty forces) forward."

Besides providing extra muscle while the Air Force strengthens its security infrastructure, the 11th SFS operations officer said the chance to work with other security professionals is a good learning experience for his airmen.

"What we learned by having Air National Guard (security forces) here was that they had a lot of skills from their civilian careers that could help us," said Capt. Mike Green. "(Now) the Army Guard is showing us how they operate.

"We'll take some of the best from their world and mix it with the best from ours, and we'll all be better for the experience," he said.

Lt. Col. Jay Thompson, 11th SFS commander, agreed, adding that the influx of manpower will enable his people to establish more traditional shifts.

"An additional benefit is that it allows our security personnel to return to the traditional 8-hour shifts which they haven't seen since 9/11. We're much fresher in that type schedule and it's a huge morale boost to the troops," Thompson said.

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