Defenders at Home and Abroad

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Ed Staton
  • 172d Airlift Wing

Protecting high-value assets at Jackson, Mississippi’s Thompson Field and abroad is a primary mission for the personnel assigned to the 172nd Security Forces Squadron.  And, with a tremendous track record of deploying personnel on numerous overseas deployments, domestic operations such as presidential inauguration security and more, the group’s security focus remains in step.

“We are 24-7 all-weather Airmen and I call us the ambassadors to the installation,” said Lieutenant Colonel David S. Gray, 172d Security Forces Commander. Driving up (to the gate) the first thing you see is Security Forces.  We set the pace.  Our philosophy is the uniform and do the right thing by the uniform.” 

Those very uniforms donned by 172nd SFS personnel, have had a substantial global presence throughout last year and the group is getting set to deploy another team in the near future.

“As a squadron we’ve been very busy,” Chief Master Sergeant Johnnie Barnes, 172nd Security Forces Manager said. “Our primary purpose over the last year has been the successful completion of our overseas deployments.  We just had six people get back from Iraq in September and we’ve had deployers return from additional overseas assignments”. 

Despite its global footprint, 172nd SFS personnel are on guard and fully prepared at all times when it comes to protecting its Thompson Field resources.  

“With a squadron our size, losing personnel to a deployment can present a challenge,” Barnes, who recently returned from a deployment, said.  “However security forces is in a better position for handling that for one critical reason.  We’re all trained to do the same job.  We all have additional duties and receive specialized training, but at the end of the day, we’re all about resource protection.”

To uphold a high level of security, every U.S. Air Force installation has its own police force.  Each SFS member is trained in law enforcement and combat arms to serve their fellow Airmen around the clock. To maintain and enhance readiness, the group constantly conducts a series of exercises and drills to sharpen each member to react to numerous scenarios.

Guarding the main gate is SFS’ most visible mission, but that is not the group’s only purpose.  Protecting base personnel and its resources through perimeter checks, manning of additional watch points and maintaining response readiness are additional critical tasks.

“If the flag does go up and you need assistance, we expect to be running past you towards the incident as a fire team,” Gray said.  “We are the defenders.”

Security Forces personnel have the honor of wearing a navy blue beret.  The headgear became an official part of the security forces uniform in 1976 and features a falcon over an airfield with the motto, “Defensor Fortis”.

 Physical fitness among SFS personnel and training that enables their Airmen to work with weapons and tactical scenarios, helps to keep the group’s ranks easily filled.

“Security forces sells itself,” Barnes said.  “It takes very little selling from us to convince a young person who is excited about the military to join our group and fire weapons, drive ATVs and more.”