Long-time combat skills instructor leads support for rodeo security forces events

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • Air Mobility Rodeo 2011 Public Affairs
He started off in the 421st Ground Combat Readiness Squadron of the Air Mobility Warfare Center at what was then Fort Dix, N.J. Now, it's the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center and Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, but it's the same Bill Gaskins.

Master Sgt. Bill Gaskins, now the superintendent of security forces training with the 421st Combat Training Squadron, is one of the lead umpires for the Air Mobility Rodeo 2011 security forces tactics competition. His history as a security forces and combat skills instructor brings a wealth of experience to the management of the competition.

From 1999 to 2003, Gaskins served as a squad operations instructor in the Phoenix Readiness training course. The course was a pioneering effort at the center in preparing mobility Airmen for deployments.

"We were part of a team that trained security forces Airmen from around Air Mobility Command," Gaskins said. "We had a part in growing the course, too, from a security forces and combat-oriented, personnel-specific training platform, to one that included career fields across the Air Force. Phoenix Readiness was the predecessor to what is now Air Force Exercise Eagle Flag."

Gaskins enlisted in the Air Force in June 1992 as an Airman basic, and was assigned to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, where he worked as a law enforcement desk specialist and military working dog handler. He left Eielson in 1998 and then completed a 15-month overseas tour to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. That was followed by his first tour at the center until late 2003 and he was then reassigned to work in a security forces unit at then-McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. In August 2009, Gaskins began his second tour with the 421st CTS to his current position.

Out of his 19-year career, nearly seven years has been with the Expeditionary Center as a security forces trainer.

"Those years have been the best years of my career," Gaskins said. "For many of my years there, we wore the black instructor cap with the instructor tab. We took a lot of pride in wearing the black hat and earning that tab because we knew all the people we trained may go into harm's way. That's our incentive for doing the best we can."

Although the black instructor hat is no longer worn because of the Air Force's Airman Battle Uniform requirements, the quality of training by those same instructors has not changed, Gaskins said.

It's a quality he said is reflected in feedback he's received from students and others across the Air Force.

"Throughout all my time in the unit, our instructors have been the best the Air Force has to offer," said Gaskins , whose training section oversees the Phoenix Warrior, Phoenix Raven, MWD and other security forces training. "They are the soul of the organization that keeps a consistent quality of training that can only be upheld by the people who do the training.

"Over the years, the doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures have changed for our training, but it's been because of those people that it's been as excellent as it's been," Gaskins said.

Gaskins said he's seen the difference in students over his time in the Expeditionary Center because of the increase in deployment experience of students.

Because of that increase, he said, they are seeing Airmen coming back and helping make the training process even better.

"In the courses I'm responsible for, on their own, we can train anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 students in a year and maybe more," Gaskins said. "That is a lot of students who go on deployment and come back with that experience. They can then share that experience with others in our career field and we can adjust our training to reflect the latest action in the theater."

Over his career as an instructor, it is estimated that Gaskins has helped train more than 8,000 students.

He said he prides himself in the fact that every Airman he has been involved with in training has come back from his deployment.

"All the Airmen I have trained have come back," Gaskins said. "Only two have been injured and I know who they are personally."

In the rodeo competition, Gaskins can be seen talking with the competitors on their procedures for the event. At the end, the instructor in him comes out when he provides a synopsis of how the security forces team performed.

He said it's something he would never change.

"As an instructor, I've always enjoyed seeing when a team of Airmen learn something you've taught them," Gaskins said. "You can see the 'I got it' moment when it happens. Then, to see them grow and gel more into a team that's combat ready is priceless.

"That's why I'm here with 28 of my friends from the Expeditionary Center managing these competitions," Gaskins added. "We're seeing our training come to fruition and we're seeing the 'I got it' when they've done well. That too is priceless."

The Expeditionary Center was first opened as the Air Mobility Warfare Center on May 1, 1994, and officially received its mission on Oct. 1, 1994. It was officially renamed the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center on March 4, 2007, and "is the Air Force's leader" in expeditionary training offering more than 90 courses. On Jan. 7, 2011, the Expeditionary Center expanded in scope, taking added responsibility for evolving AMC mission sets.