Sensor system keeping airmen safe

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicole Bickford
  • 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
As the horizon disappears and the sky fades to black, residents here wrap up the day's activities and crawl into bed like bears heading into hibernation for the winter. No worries, no fears of terrorists or enemies invading their resting place -- just soft pillows, warm blankets and sweet dreams.

This feeling of security in a region that is known for its instability could not be possible without the 363rd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron physical security team along with its Tactical Automated Sensor System.

"Unlike (base) residents, the TASS never sleeps," said Master Sgt. Andrew Samuels, 363rd ESFS physical security superintendent deployed here from Misawa Air Base, Japan. "It's up and running 24 hours a day."

TASS, originally designed for bare-base operations, is an electronic security system that uses a wide variety of sensors, computers, thermal imagers and video cameras to detect enemy intrusion into protected areas.

Once a breach of security is detected, security force defenders can isolate the location of a potential threat from several miles away using computers and hand-held devices at strategically located monitoring control centers.

The control center computers and hand-held monitors display the location of tripped sensors. Video cameras and thermal imagers, capable of detecting heat sources in all weather conditions, day or night, are then used to survey the area.

If necessary, security forces patrols are dispatched to the effected area to provide additional visual assessment and defend against actual threats.

"This capability is especially important (here) because we are tasked to cover more than 800 percent more land area than most Air Force bases," said Samuels. "With the combination of our security force defenders and TASS, there is no area on (base) that we cannot monitor."

Security officials here said the base currently has the largest operational TASS in the world.

Throughout history, man has put a lot of trust in the latest forms of technology and TASS is no exception, said Lt. Col. Chuck Rice, 363rd ESFS commander.

"However, without the energetic, motivated efforts of the many deployed security forces members from all over the world, this system would be just another expensive, under-utilized detection tool," said Rice. "Our defenders don't make the system; they make it better."

Detecting possible intruders recently became more precise and effective when Prince Sultan Air Base became the first base in the area of operation to receive and place into use a new technologically advanced Wide-Area Surveillance Thermal Imager.

"Due to the heightened terrorist threat against coalition and American troops in Southwest Asia, the benefits of the WSTI system have greatly increased our capabilities to detect and quickly apprehend terrorists," said Staff Sgt. Luis-Alberto Davila, noncommissioned officer in charge of TASS who is deployed from Kadena AB, Japan. "Now we have the advantage over our adversaries to protect our mission-critical assets and most importantly our people."

Besides TASS, the physical security team is also responsible for many of the wing's force protection and physical security enhancements including maintaining and improving the wing's extensive barrier systems composed of thousands of concrete barriers, cabled metal "star" barriers, concertina wire and drop-arm and pop-up barriers. The team is continuously evaluating the system for potential weaknesses and making necessary improvements.

Without physical security, the soft pillows, warm blankets and sweet dreams could easily turn to gas masks, chemical suits, and sleepless nights.

"If something were to happen (here), it won't be on our watch," said Davila.