39th SFS Defenders improve readiness

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

It was a dreary autumn morning at Incirlik after a night of rainfall. Still the storm clouds lingered, ready for another downpour.

But little did anyone know they were in for a different kind of storm.

Out of nowhere came the blaring of sirens resounding throughout the community. In response to their deep droning, waves upon waves of security forces poured in from all directions and rushed to the armory. With many of them still in civilian clothes, they reported for duty, picked up their weapons, donned their body armor and bolted away in Humvees.

It didn’t matter who was on shift at the time or if it was anybody’s so-called day off; when the sirens blare, everyone’s there.

The zero-notice exercise is designed to pour maximum pressure onto the Defenders of the 39th Security Forces Squadron and create a realistic environment to prepare Airmen for the spontaneous and chaotic nature of real-world emergencies.

“The scenarios for these exercises are often complex and difficult,” said 1st Lt. Michael Brickell, 39th SFS assistant operations officer. “From the moment Airmen report to the armory, to the point they enter the fight, there is confusion and obstacles for failure. They have to know and understand what the rapidly-changing variables are.”

The confusion and pandemonium serve as tools for building character, teaching lessons and developing future leaders, he added.

“The pressure and success in a chaotic and ever-changing environment is critical for Airmen and their maturity,” Brickell remarked. “One day, the Airmen here will be flight chiefs somewhere else; they will be charged with the responsibility of commanding emergency responses. The experience they gain here—even at the lowest level—will keep them cool and calm later.”

Brickell stressed the importance of teamwork, saying missions fail or succeed depending on the ability of team members to come together and move as one unit.

One of the response teams during the exercise sat quietly in their Humvee as they approached the simulated target.

The atmosphere inside was as ominous as the clouds above. Raindrops infiltrated the cabin through the open hatch on the roof where the turret was located. The vehicle convulsed under the weight of its armor as it sped along the slick road. But neither the metallic rattling of steel nor the pounding of raindrops on the windshield could drown out the cold, hard silence of the Defenders.

“So, how do we get to this place? I’m quite new here,” asked the driver, a staff sergeant with several years under his belt.

“I’ve been there before sir,” replied a lower ranking Airman. “I’ll let you know where to turn. We’ll get there soon.”

The Airmen clutched their weapons as the sergeant drove on, bracing themselves for whatever awaited them.

Because exercises such as this occur unexpectedly, nobody knows for sure what role they will play in the response, said 1st Lt. Chris Hastings, 39th SFS Bravo Flight commander. Thus, every Defender must be ready to take on any task given to them.

“There is no telling who will arrive to the armory first,” Hastings noted. “Airmen of all ranks are forced to assume the responsibility of any post not filled. This could be an airman first class acting as relay, or a master sergeant as a fire team member. Each person must have a basic understanding of all jobs.”

The response team arrived at the location, thanks to the junior-enlisted Airman guiding the staff sergeant along the way. The team disembarked from the Humvee and began clearing operations right away.

Thick fog blanketed the landscape as the precipitation increased. Within minutes, the muddy ground was tattooed by boot prints. Rain drops crackled like dry bones in a fire as they descended upon the Defenders.

The team scoured the area, leaving no corner unchecked. They also took precautions with each step, such as shouting warnings before entering a building—only to be answered by their own echoes.

As the Defenders gained ground, they communicated constantly and watched each other’s backs. The junior Airman, who had experienced similar exercises in the area, helped familiarize the newer staff sergeant on the operation.

“Each Airman must know their part, work together as a team and be flexible to move through the complex counter-assault,” Brickell said. “This is an all-in type of effort. If one person is doing their own thing, it can be devastating to our ability to seize the objective. There is no time for someone to be a ‘team me’ player.”

After the team finished clearing their respective areas, they met up with the rest of the Defenders who informed them the exercise was completed.

“Hey, thanks for taking leadership during this operation,” the staff sergeant said to the junior Airman as he drove back to the armory. “You really helped me out a lot out there.”

“No problem sir, I guess we all learned something today,” the Airman replied. “We know what to do next time.”

Although the exercise was finished, the perpetual mission of protecting Air Force assets continues.

Senior Airman Cameron Foley, a 39th SFS staff armorer who helped distribute equipment, said life in the security forces field requires much commitment from its members. Defenders are responsible for

protecting the community, which means Foley and his colleagues are often on duty when most people are not.

“Our operations are 24/7,” he said. “Every security forces member here is on standby. We always have to be ready. That’s just the nature of our duty as Defenders; security forces operations never take a day off.”

“But that’s okay, because we have each other,” Foley continued, noting that a Defender’s team is both a shield and a weapon in times of crises. “We take care of each other, and that’s the best thing we have. It’s one team, one fight—we’re all out here protecting what is ours.”

Hastings praised the efforts of his squadron, adding that the Air Force couldn’t function without security forces. He described Defenders as the reason people can rest easy, and why the U.S. Air Force continues to fly, fight and win.

“Defenders are our Air Force’s first and final lines of defense,” said Hastings. “Whether domestic or abroad, enemies of the state look to take advantage of any vulnerabilities with which they can use to accomplish their goals. Defenders put themselves between those threats, our assets and most importantly, our people. They are the reason we can accomplish our mission.”