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Force Protection Airmen demonstrate flexibility to accomplish mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Constantine Bambakidis
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing

In the Air Force, Airmen must sometimes operate in unfamiliar situations, outside of their comfort zone. The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Force Protection team exemplifies this capability by demonstrating how quickly airmen can learn and execute jobs in different circumstances.

FP is the group of airmen that escort and supervise contracted other-country-nationals, or OCNs, that work on AUAB. What makes FP different from other jobs on AUAB is that it is a temporarily assigned job in the Air Force, not an Air Force career. Airmen from across all jobs in the Air Force are assigned as FP, and learn the ropes once they arrive on-site.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Garret Gentry, the superintendent of FP at AUAB, is originally a civil engineer at Travis Air Force Base, California. Three months ago, he was tasked with leading FP at AUAB.

“In this flight at force protection, we have 197 airmen responsible for the daily escorting operations of all the OCNs on Al Udeid,” said Gentry. “We are that first line of defense when it comes to any suspicious activity for OCNs.“

OCNs provide key services to AUAB, such as preparing and serving food, building and maintaining dormitories, and sanitation work. Force Protection is present anywhere on base that OCNs work.

“That ranges from all the big construction projects, like the dorms, all the way down to the people driving trash trucks,” Gentry said. “They monitor about 3,500 OCNs per day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

The job is demanding, with a short turnover period for new FP airmen to learn the ropes.

“Usually within the first 12 hours, we’re getting them in and getting their paperwork done. Then we go into a two-phase approach,” Gentry said. “Phase one will lay out the basic responsibilities of force protection, which is the accountability and observation of the OCNs. After phase one, we turn them over to their specialized sections.”

The short turnover time between deployed rotations presents a unique challenge that new leaders must learn to work with.

“Within that 197 FP airmen, there’s 95 different AFSCs that are here. Everyone brings their own work culture, so now I’ve got 95 different personalities and have to make a cohesive team,” Gentry said. “For the NCOs, it’s a can be a good time for them to really hone their leadership style. It’s a leadership melting pot here.”

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Briana Bonets, a medical technician from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, was deployed to AUAB and became a shift lead for FP.

“As an NCO and shift lead, I make sure everybody is where they’re supposed to be in the morning, and take accountability,” Bonets said. “I also make sure everything is good in the dorms, and make sure everyone’s getting along.”

In some cases, NCOs will pick up responsibilities as FP that they wouldn’t normally get at their home station.

“Being a shift lead at Nellis is shift leading like 12 people total. Here I’m shift leading 60 people,” Bonet says. “This is good experience, that’s what I’m enjoying here. I’m learning firsthand how to become a supervisor.”

Learning a new job in a short time period can be difficult, but the adaptability that airmen use when they fill this role helps to make them more rounded and prepare them for future career opportunities.

“They’re definitely getting great firsthand experience of what the Air Force says - be flexible!” Bonets said.