By Maj. Brenda Hendricksen , 163rd RW/PA
/ Published February 22, 2007
MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif. --
Just prior to the 163d Reconnaissance Wing's Feb. UTA, thirteen Security Forces Squadron members (one squad) returned from a four-month deployment to Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan where they were tasked with installation security. Another squad is slated to deploy to Iraq in the near future.
The returning troops were greeted at the airport by family and friends Jan. 27 and Jan. 31.
"I'm so proud of him for doing what he does. He's a great example for our kids and for our country. We're glad to have him back with us," said Marcy Musselman after greeting her husband, Senior Airman Andy Musselman, Jan. 27.
On station the Security Forces Troops were split up into different shifts, six on nights and seven on days. Duties included working static posts, entry control points, checking sensors, flight-line security and off base patrols. "It was all a big learning experience for me. It was my first deployment and I learned a lot," said Senior Airman Kenneth Jamison who has been a Grizzly for over three years.
As Squad Leader and deployed Flight Leader, Senior Master Sgt. Sandoval had his hands full, deploying for the first time in this capacity. Many incidents occurred while he was there to include a shooting, plane crash and suspected IED. According to Sandoval all incidents were handled superbly and the Grizzlies were even recognized by the Base Commander for a job well done.
"The new troops were real timid and lacked self- confidence in the first few weeks of the deployment, but by the months end they were fully squared away," said Sandoval. "I was happy we were able to take some of our junior folks so they could gain some experience, " added Sandoval. "Practicing in the RTS is one thing, but actually getting on a flight and understanding the security concept for the Air Force and how it's supposed to work and actually work it is very different."
Sandoval talked about the slow ops tempo as compared to other bases. "Boredom is something that happens in our career field but the troops need to be one hundred percent effective because the one time they are not something may happen," commented Sandoval about patrolling.
Deploying for the first time in a Senior NCO role, Flight Chief, Master Sgt. Steven Martinez oversaw 60 troops. Talking about the new troops brought from the Wing, "after about a week or so, they were old hats. Everyone came back a lot wiser," said Martinez who has been with the Wing for ten years. During his role as Flight Chief, a suspected IED was found by one of the patrols. "It looked like a roadside bomb," said Martinez. With his lead, security teams set up a cordon, called the fire department and EOD, set up patrols for the perimeter and evacuated surrounding buildings. "The device ended up being a fake, but there usually is a real one near by," said Martinez
On station the troops interacted with the coalition forces to include Spanish, French, Dutch, Canadian, Lithuanian and Afghanistani. "The language barrier was difficult. Working with an interpreter was a little bit different." said Airman 1st Class Thomas Perez.
"Every time you learn something new it's a good thing," said Musselman, who enlisted with Security Forces two years ago after a 19 year break in service. "I changed my mind after 9/11. I wanted to do my part."
When asked if he felt safe at the base during the deployment, Senior Airman William Barlett replied, "In the beginning, the not knowing is hard. As time went on you started to feel a little more comfortable and aware of your surroundings."
With one squad home, Security Forces prepares another to deploy. This time the squad moves closer to a high threat area in the AOR.
Deploying for the first time as a Squad Leader, Master Sgt. Florence Casiano is looking forward to the experience.
"I'll be able to say I led from the front and when I move into different roles it will because I earned it," said Casiano. The soon to be Squad Leader has worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for the past 21 years and joined the unit for the second time in 2000 after an 11 and a half year break in service. "Troops don't realize that the decisions you are making are not only in the best interest of the individual, but of the mission in and of itself," said Casiano talking about the role she will be filling while deployed. "Safety is of the utmost importance. I have a big responsibility in making sure everyone comes home," added Casiano.
The Squad recently returned from Creech AFB along side five Air National Guardsmen from Tennessee, Kansas and Ohio (who will make up part of the Squad) where they completed a mandatory 16 days of deployment preparation in a simulated environment.
"It was good because I got a chance to get close to the people I would be deploying with," said Senior Airman Paul McElwee. Types of training included mounted (humvee/convoy) and dismounted (walking patrol) patrolling, Enemy Prisoner of War training (EPW) and Self Aid and Buddy Care.
"Creech was an eye opener for me. We got a chance to sharpen the skills we had previously learned," said Master Sgt. Thomas Hill who has over 15 years of military security forces experience. "The deployment will be a lot different. The terrorist threat will be a lot higher. We'll have to stay on our toes."
"I'm prepared for whatever. I've been there before so I know what to expect," said McElwee. While deployed, the Squad will split up into flights, jobs and parts of the base. "The deployment involves lots of town patrols, keeping the peace," added McElwee.
Some of the troops deploying will be on their first major deployment. "Mentoring the younger troops is an on going thing," said Hill. "I'll do my best to help them out with their needs."
"We are all looking forward to the challenge. The troops are very motivated and positive. They all volunteered," said Casiano. "You won't get experience out of a textbook."