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Year of Defender revitalizes security forces squadrons

U.S. Army Bryan Reed, Warrior Training Alliance instructor, explains to 627th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) Airmen the process for training with a simulator that puts the defenders through various scenarios to test them on use of force and other tactics at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 30, 2019. The Warrior Training Alliance is just one of several opportunities the 627th SFS can take advantage of as a part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative that was implemented by top Air Force leaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

A Warrior Training Alliance instructor explains to 627th Security Forces Squadron Airmen the process for training with a simulator that puts the defenders through various scenarios to test them on use of force and other tactics at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 30, 2019. The Warrior Training Alliance is just one of several opportunities the 627th SFS can take advantage of as a part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative that was implemented by top Air Force leaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chad Rogers, 627th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) noncommissioned officer in charge of plans and programs, removes his weapon during a simulated active-shooter training scenario at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 30, 2019.  Top Air Force leaders declared 2019 as the Year of the Defender, initiating the Reconstitute Defender Initiative to revitalize the security forces squadron across the Air Force. As a part of this, the 627th SFS has worked to increase their time using the U.S. Army’s urban-response simulator for training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

Staff Sgt. Chad Rogers, 627th Security Forces Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of plans and programs, draws his weapon during a simulated active-shooter training scenario at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., April 30, 2019. Top Air Force leaders declared 2019 as the Year of the Defender, initiating the Reconstitute Defender Initiative to revitalize the security forces squadrons across the Air Force. As a part of this, the 627th SFS has worked to increase their time using the Army’s urban-response simulator for training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AFNS) -- Security forces is the largest enlisted career field in the Air Force with approximately 38,000 defenders spanning 120 bases. In order to better care for these Airmen and ensure they have everything they need to complete their mission, 2019 was declared The Year of the Defender by top Air Force officials.

During the 2018 Air Space Cyber Conference, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein announced the Air Force would begin implementing the Reconstitute Defender Initiative in all security forces squadrons.

“We must always take integrated and layered base defense to a new level by increasing investment in our defenders with new equipment, new training, new tactics, techniques and procedures and renewed focus at every echelon of command,” he said. “This is the Year of the Defender because we don't project power without the network of bases and infrastructure needed to execute multi-domain operations.”

The RDI is a multi-year approach to enhance mission effectiveness across the security forces career field. Its purpose is to restore readiness, revitalize security forces organizations at all levels and build a more lethal force in accordance with the secretary of defense and secretary of the Air Force direction.

For the 627th Security Forces Squadron at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, this is not something new.

“When the command team came in before RDI, our squadron said we needed to be revitalized,” said Maj. Michael Holt, 627th SFS commander. “We kind of ran with RDI before RDI was even a concept and have just been grinding it out.”

“We have done a lot in the two years since I’ve been here, not just with facilities, but also with the overall mindset,” he continued. “I think we have changed the atmosphere a little with owning the battle space.”

Eight objectives fall under the RDI: human capital, modern weapons, improved policy, modern equipment, integrate technology, competent and lethal Defenders, improved facilities and improved infrastructure.

Now that the initiative is in place, Holt and his squadron are receiving the time and funds to continue to implement many of the ideas they have had to improve the squadron’s effectiveness and morale.

In order to restore readiness to their squadron, they have digitized their mobility folders, re-aligned their organizational structure, implemented a leader-led training focus and more.

One major step was upgrading the Defenders’ training time from twice a month to four times a month. They also have more funds to purchase better training equipment, such as simulators that enhance and test active-shooter; use-of-force; and shoot-no-shoot scenarios.

“It’s making them more lethal, but it’s also resurging and revitalizing them as defenders,” said Tech. Sgt. Jessica Stilwell, 627th SFS noncommissioned officer in charge of training. “I think because we don’t have a deployed mission set at this base, you can become stagnant and complacent.”

Stilwell added the funds and time afforded to them this year are going to help them better respond to threats as training builds a kind of muscle memory.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson is one of the leaders spearheading the defender initiative. She believes training for defenders is an integral part in the success of the Air Force mission.

“Throughout our 71-year history, we have had the primary task of defending the bases from which we project combat power,” she said. “At the heart of this no-fail mission is the elite defender who must be the best in the world at 21st century integrated base defense.”

As a part of that base defense, one of the 627th SFS’ primary missions at JB Lewis-McChord is flight line security. To revitalize the squadron, the 627th SFS is focusing on providing up-to-date vehicles, weapons and gear that will make the defender’s tasks easier and more effective.

“Since I have been here, we really were struggling to get the gear or equipment we need, but that’s starting to change,” said Staff Sgt. Ashley Thomas, 627th SFS flight chief. “We are getting new weapons systems all the time. It’s nice the higher ups are giving us the tools we need to be effective with our mission for flight line security.

“Any equipment you can get that makes the job easier helps keep our spirits up,” she continued. “It’s nice to know these things are being looked at and we’re being taken care of.”

Having the training and equipment needed to effectively defend the base is important. The 627th SFS has started doing mounted operations convoy simulations, added a combatives room to their squadron and training at a full distance range with pop-up targets to increase lethality.

In addition, the 627th SFS armory has also received an upgrade to their system, shortening the time it takes to arm a flight of approximately 10 Airmen.

“In case of emergency, or even for day-to-day operations, our old system would take us ten minutes to arm up flight,” said Senior Airman Cory Loicao, 627th SFS flight armorer. “You would have to shove stuff aside to get the right guns out or fight with the locker system. With this new system, it has taken it down to (less than five minutes) per person.”

The new armory system is on rollers that can be moved back and forth to open up an aisle. This provides more shelving in a smaller space, allowing the weapons to have more room per shelf. Before, the weapons were crowded together and could be torn up while being taken off or put back on the shelf. The added space also allows the weapons to dry more efficiently when necessary.

“It makes it a lot more efficient for just about everything,” Loicao said. “It’s easier to access weapons, it gives us more walking room when we’re going in and out of it so it’s not so crowded and it’s a lot easier to grab the guns off the row.”

The bottom line of the RDI is working to restore full spectrum-readiness and retain the tactical advantage so defenders always have the advantage in defense.

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