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Behind the curtain: protecting the force, focusing on tomorrow

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mozer O. Da Cunha
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Protecting the base and force is a never-ending task both at the home station and theater of operations. While deployed, a special need for security and coordination arises. That need is met by the Airmen of the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron force protection flight.

The force protection flight provides a security buffer for other country nationals such as contractors, their employees and the general base population. Airmen assist and escort OCN’s during their duty day, helping minimize potential data collection and ensure the departure of vehicles and personnel once their services are completed for the day.

“We have three different sections,” said Tech. Sgt. Aaron Sanchez, 386th ECES force protection construction lead. “Services, construction and dispatch. Those three sections provide escorts for the OCN’s that are performing contracts on base. Dispatch handles scheduling contractors and airfield training for the unit. Construction deals with providing escorts for all the construction details throughout the base. And services provide escort for OCN’s maintaining the facilities here.”

The force protection flight at Ali Al Salem is a unique mix of 132 Airmen from over 91 different Air force specialty codes working toward one common goal.

“My job back at my home station is an office job, so I’m always indoors,” said Airman 1st Class Page Johnson, 386th ECES force protection escort.

“Being here and doing the job outside is definitely an experience. As an aviation manager back home, it would be hard for me to deploy at this point in my career. Deploying as force protection allows me the opportunity to get that experience early on in my career.”

The mix of AFSC’s that makeup force protection provides a unique perspective that is used by the flight to problem solve and improve processes.

“It’s interesting to have such a diverse group, no one thinks the same and no one is alike,” Sanchez said. “Everyone's personality is different, everyone has something to contribute, they have different views and different ideas on how to improve things. Usually, maintenance Airmen think a certain way, medical Airmen think another way, with everyone tied together it truly benefits the mission. No two days are the same.”

While force protection does provide Airmen with an opportunity to grow and learn from new experiences, the detail does involve long hours and hard work.

“This is a tough job,” Sanchez said. “Especially for the Airmen that are out there, doing most of the work, providing the security, doing escort duty, or doing convoy duty for personnel back and forward. There are a lot of moving parts to this job. It provides a good opportunity for young Airmen to develop important foundational leadership skills."

Just within the month of August, Airmen in the construction section of the flight escorted 4,000 OCN’s and vehicles across 500 details around base totaling, $34 million in contracts.

“It makes me feel good to see the progress the base has made so far,” Johnson said. “I can already start seeing things being built, all the progress the construction projects going on to expand the base and I think it’s cool to have a hand in that.”

In addition to assisting in expanding the base for future Airmen, the flight also provides a valuable service to keep facilities around the base staffed and operational.

“We work in the background,” Sanchez said. “We get seen, but people don’t get to see to an extent how we contribute to base functionality. An example is the services section: they convoy and help OCN’s get on base to operate facilities that we enjoy every day, such as food facilities, coffee shops and stores. All those services require force protection Airmen to bring the individuals operating them on and off base."

While the job might be challenging at times, it is also crucial to maintaining the smooth operation of services on base.

“It’s a rough detail,” Sanchez said. “It’s a job that if you would advertise ‘hey, we need people and here is what we do’ some would look at it and say, ‘Nah, I’m not doing that’ but these Airmen are out here doing it. They work long hours and some days it can be tiring, but they are proud to have a hand the betterment of the base and the quality of life of those residing in it. We thank them for that.”