Force protection team helps keep trainees safe

  • Published
  • By Patty Welsh
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
A program office here is using its expertise to help ensure the safety of Air Force trainees.

Following occurrences of sexual misconduct during basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, a commander's directed-investigation looked at various programs and procedures to see how the behavior could be prevented.

The final Air Education and Training Command report identified surveillance of specific communal areas to detect personnel coming and going as a needed mitigation tactic.

Brig. Gen. Allen Jameson, director of Security Forces, often referred to as the Air Force's "top cop," recommended the 737th Training Group, the unit responsible for BMT, look to the Battle Management Directorate's Force Protection office.

"Our program office is known to be very good at what we do - ensuring the safety of bases and equipment," said Pat Dagle, Force Protection chief. "Now we have the opportunity to protect the Air Force's most vital asset: our people."

The program office got a call late on a Thursday last summer and by Sunday had a team of its best people, including contractors and members of the 46th Test Squadron from Eglin AFB, Fla., heading off to JBSA-Lackland to assess the situation.

"We wanted to leverage all the knowledge and expertise we had available to us," said 1st Lt. Austin Whelan, program manager. "We know this is a small piece of a larger effort to restore trust."

The team surveyed all the existing facilities, including the area and buildings where Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training is completed and new training facilities still under construction. Afterward, the team worked with the 737th TRG to develop a set of requirements and provide a cost estimate.

The Force Protection program office is working a sole source acquisition strategy and will be releasing a request for proposal shortly.

"We knew this work could be done by a small business and wanted to leverage the benefits of working with a small business, so after an extensive look at those businesses with needed capabilities in the industry and the area, Force Protection went with one that had extensive knowledge and experience with DoD facilities," said Bill Donaldson, Hanscom's director of Small Business programs.

The contract calls for a five-month design and installation effort. It will include a design phase, design review at JBSA-Lackland, installation, integration and government acceptance testing. An initial year of follow-on customer support is also included to allow the user time to finalize their support capability for the life of the system.

"Our goal is to provide a tool to deter future incidents, help restore faith in the community and forensically support future investigations or prosecutions," said Whelan. "We want to be able to track movement through public areas; install a system that meets the needs to help combat the threat."

The team has solicited inputs from legal and investigative teams to ensure the system records and stores video in a manner consistent with what is required for legal proceedings.

The requirements include a robust, three year, storage capability, but program office personnel plan to purchase the media storage incrementally to realize gains from price decay over time.

"As commercial technology constantly keeps improving, the quality gets better and the cost lower," said Whelan. "This is one way we can prudently get the best product for the user, and at a better price."

Approximately 35,000 trainees pass through BMT each year. According to program officials, the need for this assurance was so important that the unit did not permit squadrons to house and train trainees in new facilities until a camera system was in place. A locally installed system is in place for the time being, while awaiting the Battle Management Directorate-installed system.

The Force Protection office understands the criticality of getting the surveillance in place.

"We'll be affecting a lot of lives," said Dagle.