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Security Forces defends AUAB and evacuees

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kylee Gardner
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Security Forces members can usually be found at the gate checking IDs, in their car patrolling the base or training with their K-9s to defend the installation. However, for the Defenders of the 379th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, they also took on the responsibility of ensuring the safety of thousands of qualified evacuees after Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, became the main stopover location for those evacuating Afghanistan on Aug. 14, 2021.

Since the first group of evacuees arrived at Al Udeid AB, the 379th ESFS has been working hard to ensure the safety and security of every individual, whether they were already living on the installation or transiting through.

“Our [379th ESFS] team has touched just about every aspect of this operation,” said Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Hartzell, 379th ESFS S5 superintendent. “We‘ve secured and unloaded thousands of passengers from aircraft and then provided security for evacuees throughout their entire stay on the installation.”

While it has been the job of the Defenders to ensure the installation is safe since the operation began they’ve also been able to help out in ways outside their normal duty description.

“I have witnessed my team countless times, day and night, respond to and assist in this operation, way outside of their primary roles,” said Hartzell. “Whether providing food, responding to medical mishaps, handing out supplies, reuniting displaced families, comforting a child, or picking up a broom and trash bag to help clean, not one of them has ever complained about this mission.”

According to Hartzell, his team is happy to help evacuees and fellow military members in any way they can, but for him, it’s deeper than just doing his job.

“My brother took his life over 4 years ago; he was an Army Veteran of over 12 years,” said Hartzell. “There is and always will be a void in me because I wish he would have just reached out. I have the strength to help, but wasn’t given the opportunity with him. My goal in life is to help those in need, especially ones that can’t or don’t have the strength to help themselves. This operation has given me that chance to help and it’s what drives my vigor and passion every day.”

Hartzell also explains that he is humbled to have been given the opportunity by the U.S. Air Force to use his training and experience to make the evacuees lives a little easier, and to give them peace knowing that the members of the 379th ESFS are standing watch, ensuring their safety and security.

While the extent of the evacuation operations was more than initially expected, there were ways to improve and learn as members continued to support more evacuees through the installation.

“I have learned that in a high operational tempo like this, with so many moving parts there are times where the flow of communication will break down,” said Hartzell. “Due to the magnitude of the operation and how fast decisions were being made, it was hard to process and ensure that we had the most up-to-date information. But we all quickly adapted, stuck together at each site and listened to each other’s suggestions, regardless of rank, on how to stream line or fix an issue. During these past weeks, an Airman’s suggestion was just as important and purposeful as the commanders.”

The unity and team cohesion within the 379th ESFS is what allowed their mission to get done effectively every day.

“I have never been more proud to stand next to my fellow defenders, as well as the other supporting units that have come together to assist in this operation,” said Hartzell. “We took on a mission of enormous magnitude and never skipped a beat in what it has taken to ensure its success. While it has been enduring, I am honored to be a part of this unit and mission.”