PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
To be a lethal fighting force, a few things must happen. Airmen must be equipped with the proper tools, know how to use them and operate as a team. This is the initiative and this is the Year of the Defender.
Coined by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the Year of the Defender initiative is to increase Security Forces Defenders readiness and resiliency. This initiative cements base security being a top priority for all installations across the Air Force.
At the 45th Security Forces Squadron, several upgrades with training, resources and infrastructure are happening now and will occur throughout the year to meet requirements to get our Defenders ready for the fight.
Sounds like a lot to tackle, however Lt. Col. Timothy McCarty, 45th Security Forces Squadron commander, has both a plan to execute and a great team to implement.
“I’m optimistic. We’ve started doing things that have contributed to being a combat-ready lethal fighting force, both deployed and in-garrison,” said McCarty.
The actionable items McCarty has planned for the squadron started with a full training implementation. With the Air Force’s top leadership team supporting the initiative, a handful of training changes kicked into overdrive affecting approximately 25,000 Defenders. McCarty and his team took the ball and ran with it.
Changes affecting the entire Security Forces career field were among the first in the squadron. Career Development Courses (CDC) were removed from upgrade training, courses previously required to study and test on after technical training. The requirement for weapons qualification, normally a minimum of twice a year is now performed four times a year. And, a requirement isolating Defenders protecting nuclear weapons, inadvertently caused them to spend the majority of their career at those installations.
Now, any Defender is able to be assigned to any installation and attend the Regional Training Center (pre-deployment training).
Staff Sgt. Kiley Davila, 45th SFS patrolman, has spent five months of his six and half years career at Patrick Air Force Base.
“As long as you’re a cop holding a weapon, you can do security anywhere now,” said Davila. “Defenders have more opportunities to hold different positions within their squadron. I’m able to deal with the public, patrol the beaches and process perpetrators for criminal activity.”
A wise Defender once said that practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent, and with all the practice Defenders are doing, they need proper resources to help make their ‘permanent’ effective.
At the 45th, training extended further with two versions of Shoot, Move, Communicate tactics. The tactical team-driven training is now happening in their electronic simulator and ‘Shoot House’, simulators that train teams to be combat ready. The Shoot House allows Defenders to train on close-quarter tactics in a simulated environment with real-world scenarios and stinging ‘non-lethal’ paint rounds.
McCarty stated this training was necessary and, “way more realistic for a combat environment.” He also mentioned, “You get your orders from your fire team lead and shoot, move, communicate helps you practice all of it together as a team…the more you do it, the better you get.”
With support and funding from senior leadership, McCarty and his team were able to request upgrades for equipment and infrastructure.
Many upgrades requested have been implemented or are on the horizon. Some examples include; moving from the M9 to M18 pistol, barrier upgrades with Final Denial Systems (wedges in the road to stop vehicles), license plate readers, computers in police vehicles with printing capabilities, Razors (four wheeler off-road vehicles for beach patrols and swampy areas) and much more.
As one of the users of the Razor, Davila stated, “They’re morale boosters, it’s a better way to move around versus going through the terrain on foot.”
These improvements have sparked and empowered the Defender’s knack to problem solve. The SFS commander envisions this year being a great year for his squadron.
“We might be one of the most technologically advanced Security Forces Squadron in the Air Force by years end,” said McCarty.
The initiative has sparked improvements to almost every facet of the Security Forces career field. From decreasing precious seconds for a Defender’s reaction time at a security gate to building a more combat ready force, the changes are paying dividends for Defender’s across the Air Force. One of those benefits that McCarty is most proud of is giving time back to his Defenders.
“With the time off, we train throughout the day so we can give them (Defenders) their personal time off…we’re not going to touch that.” Davila said.
Davila also reflected on previous challenges and the way ahead.
“Now I get a chance to come home at night instead of spending three or four days away from my wife because of a demanding schedule.” Davila went on to say, “We are able to travel in Florida and get to do more things together.”
Davila’s fellow Defenders, Senior Airmen Matt Dusek, Brendan Burkhard, and Edgardo Ojeda shared their take on the Year of the Defender and getting their time back.
They equally felt more time to PT, support security details like the Daytona 500 last February and time to work on their degrees were just a few great aspects about the Year of the Defender initiative.
“Being in this career field, training and learning the job is difficult at times, now with the changes we can better practice saving lives, you always have to be ready,” Ojeda said.
As the three Airmen stood at the security gate they were protecting, it was very clear their morale was high as they teased each other and shared laughs. The Year of the Defender brought the 45th Security Forces Squadron together and with it, great training and many tools. The best is yet to come.