Security forces Airmen -- ready to roll

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. John Bainter
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs

It's not completely uncommon to drive around the corner, approaching Hurlburt Field's base housing here in the evening and see the blue and red splash of law enforcement lights against buildings -- yet with no patrol car in sight.

Instead, the light emanates from two bicycles adorned with the flashing lights. That's the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron bike patrol making a traffic stop in base housing.

Members of the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron's bike patrol make their rounds almost daily through base housing and other designated areas, making their presence known with the goal of community policing and mobility in mind.

"The greatest benefit is the public presence," said 2nd Lt. Taylor Heckman, the operations officer for 1st SOSFS. "Community policing is one thing we're really trying to promote in base housing. (On bikes) you can be quiet, you're not loud or intrusive, and you can see things you normally wouldn't from a patrol car."

Although other motorized vehicles serve a purpose in the security force squadron's fleet, bikes offer patrolmen unique capabilities.

"Our career development courses state bike patrol is the most effective patrol security forces have because you can take it places you can't go with a car, you can go up and down stairs on a bike, you can go just about anywhere a person can go," said Staff Sgt. Stuart Jones, a unit trainer with 1st SOSFS.

Another benefit to operating on bicycles is the low cost of maintenance. During a time when fiscal responsibility is more important than ever, putting more cost-efficient patrols on the road gives Airmen the ability to save money and still remain effective.

"Repairing a blown tire on a bicycle is much cheaper than repairing a blown tire on a patrol car," Heckman said. "Security forces members on patrol on bicycles also alleviate the mechanical burden on the patrol cars running constantly."

With patrol cars used in round-the-clock operation, one of the biggest problems with patrol cars is a high cost of upkeep and maintenance, said Staff Sgt. Alex Patten, a small unmanned aircraft systems program manager for 1st SOSFS. Cars aren't designed to sit and idle for extended periods of time. With bikes, the lack of an internal combustion engine to break down over time is the greatest benefit.

In addition, there's a great deal of versatile and creative uses for the bike patrol. The patrol is used for air shows, ensuring safety during trick-or-treating, nearly every large 5K race and any other special engagement that may involve large crowds of people, where accessing the venue with a patrol car would be difficult.

There are also physical fitness benefits of riding a bike. Some of the 1st SOSFS members on the bike patrol log more than 40 miles per day, Heckman said.

The primary purpose of having regular bike patrols is the community policing objective of security force's job.

"Our primary responsibility is being a visible force in the community," said Airman 1st Class Gary Jackson, a bike patrolman with 1st SOSFS. "I like getting out and actually interacting with the people in the community, because when you're in a patrol car you don't really interact unless you're pulling someone over or responding to a call. You're just a cop, but on the bike people feel much more comfortable approaching you."