Keeping Sather safer
By Tech. Sgt. Amanda Callahan, 447th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq — They stand together in a musty, hardened trailer turned armory. They stand with the smell of weapon cleaner surrounding them, in different uniforms, from different backgrounds, and even speak different languages. The Airmen, Soldiers and Ugandan contractors that make up the 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron wait for guard mount, a briefing that occurs before every shift.
Recently, the 447 ESFS became the first unit in the Air Force to unite Airmen, Soldiers and EOD Technology, a contracted security company, guards in one squadron.
“While working with contractors and other services is not unique to the Air Force, contract guards and Army personnel have never been fully merged into security operations under the sole control of an Area Defense Operations Center in a combat environment under full Air Force tactical command and control,” said Lt. Col. Ronald Turk, 447 ESFS Commander.
For the first time United States Air Force Security Forces, United States Army and Contract Guards stood guard mount to work posts as a fully integrated security force here at the Baghdad International Airport.Lt. Col. Ronald Turk, 447 ESFS Commander
The 447 ESFS’s mission is to patrol, protect and defend Sather Air Base, which includes patrolling the area around Baghdad International Airport.
“There are certainly security challenges on the civilian side of the airport that we deal with on a regular basis to make sure it’s safe to operate out here,” Colonel Turk added. “Sather is one of the busiest air cargo hubs in Iraq. We ensure the safe flow of cargo and passengers everyday.”
Members of the 447 ESFS patrol the perimeter of Sather AB regularly looking for signs of that the fence has been compromised.
“I’m basically looking for holes or deviations in the fence line,” said Tech. Sgt. Santiago Tapia, 447 ESFS member, as he looks through the open window of an armored Humvee. He is interrupted only by the sound of radio conversation and the rattling of the heavy doors.
A coyote ran past the vehicle. Luckily, on this night, it was the only sign of unlawful entrance to the base.
“We have to make sure the base is safe,” he said. “While we’re out here patrolling, we see there are bad people out Keeping Sather safer By Tech. Sgt. Amanda Callahan, 447th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs there. We have ‘what if’ situations running through our heads the whole time.”
In the event that something or someone more dangerous than a coyote or desert fox decides to try to enter the base, they will be met with the professionals in the ESFS before they make it very far.
“Most of them [the EODT guards from Uganda] have been in combat situations before here in Iraq, so there are no questions in my mind that if we get into a firefight that they’d join in,” added Sergeant Tapia. “They’ve been through it before. Most of them were in the military in Uganda.”
In addition to the combat veterans of EODT, the 447 ESFS has .50 caliber machine guns standing watch over the airfield. “I think about the job I’m doing up here all the time up,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Collaso, 447 ESFS member. “I’m responsible for taking care of all the guys, being precise and knowing what I’m doing up here. My job is to deter anyone from coming on to the flightline.
” Sergeant Tapia went on to talk about the professional attitudes of the Soldiers serving in the 447 ESFS. They conduct their business in a different way, he said, but they maintain respect and discipline in everything they do.
The Air Force members aren’t the only ones pleased by the integration. “This is my first time working with the AirForce,” said Army Staff Sgt. Jamone Drummer, shift supervisor. “I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t normally have a lot of opportunities to work with the Air Force. At first, I didn’t know what to expect. It’s exciting to get to see another side of the military.”
While some members of the 447 ESFS were on the look out at the perimeter, others manned entry control points at several locations basewide.
Senior Airman Adam Fernandez, 447 ESFS member, was one of those manning the flightline ECP.
“This is the first time we have a truly joint mission,” he said. “We’ve worked with the Army before, but now that we have the Ugandans, it’s nice to know we can work together as one force. It’s a privilege to be able to do this in Baghdad especially. It’s an honor to be a part of something historic.”
Not only is the squadron historical, the EODT contractors provide their security expertise, which allows the Army and Air Force security forces to concentrate on other security issues.
“We provide specialized and professional security,” said Sgt. Seth Kabandize, EODT guard. “That way, the Air Force can do other jobs. We can do security to standards that you will appreciate, and the Air Force doesn’t have to stay here in one place.”
In addition to the different services working together, the Air Force component of the unit is comprised of about 97 percent Air National Guardsmen. This adds another unique characteristic to the 447 ESFS.
“Each organization cultivates professionalism, from each Guard unit, to the Army to the EODT guards,” said Master Sgt. Dave “SWAT” Beun, 447 ESFS member. “It doesn’t happen overnight. We’re very fortunate to have the quality of professionals we have in this unit.”
Sergeant Beun attributes some of the success of the unit to Colonel Turk, as well.
“We have one of the best squadron commanders I’ve ever worked with. He really knows how to manage and lead his people,” he added.
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