FAST defenders keep fliers safe in Afghanistan

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Emily F. Alley
  • 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
A C-130 Hercules shuddered as it hit a clay runway in Afghanistan on April 10. A pair of security forces Airmen, weighed down with body armor, weapons and pouches stuffed with ammunition, were the first two to step off the back ramp. Each took a side of the aircraft and watched as passengers and cargo quickly loaded into the still-running plane; propellers sprayed dust and sand. Within a matter of minutes, the pair of security forces Airmen folded back into the plane and it roared down the runway and back into the sky.

Several unsecured runways lie throughout Afghanistan, and, while they can be useful for transporting people and supplies, they can be dangerous. The 451st Air Expeditionary Wing Security Forces Squadron has a fly away security team that pairs security forces Airmen to travel with aircraft into open airfields.

Staff Sgt. Mark King, a FAST leader, compared his job to the Phoenix Ravens, from Air Mobility Command, who fly all over the world.

The training is similar and includes physical self-defense, as well as verbal skills, to diffuse a situation, Sergeant King said. They study cultural concerns, legal considerations, explosive ordinance awareness and even embassy operations. 

The crew may be at the airfield for a few days, or a few minutes. While on the airfield, the crew members assess the area and may document it with a camera.

Sergeant King and his team are not limited to working outside the aircraft, however.

"We provide security for aircraft behind the wire and in the air," Sergeant King said.

He explained that during flight, they may supervise detainees or provide extra security for dignitaries.

He added, however, that the people with whom he most appreciates flying are the ones wearing a uniform. Those people, he said, are the ones who may have been working for months out of a forward operating base and are finally taking well-earned leave or going home.

These are the people who boarded the C-130 that April day, as the security forces Airmen squinted through the dust and sand sprayed by the propellers. Within a matter of minutes ... mission accomplished.