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Security forces Airmen protect Iraq's airpower hub

by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Gregoire
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/5/2007 - BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNEWS) -- Although it is distinctly a guard mount formation with defenders intently listening to the towering flight chief, one may liken the experience to a press conference. Notes from the previous shift's reported activities and expected trends for the new shift are jotted onto worn, hand-fitted notebooks.

The more than 100 security forces Airmen "have the backs" of their fellow Balad Air Base Airmen -- and all have a hand in providing combat airpower in Iraq.

Two 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron flights, Alpha and Bravo, continuously rotate shifts to eye all activities from their posts throughout Balad. Within their shifts, defenders rotate posts numerous times, said Master Sgt. Darrell Shelton, B Flight chief the 332 ESFS.

"There are constant attacks here. Combined with the number of people we deal with on a daily basis who make the mission happen at this wing and (Logistic Support Area) Anaconda, it makes the job challenging," Sergeant Shelton said. These people include all the U.S., Iraqi and coalition armed forces, civilians, contractors, Iraqis and third-country nationals.

Most security forces Airmen will tell you although dealing with people with different personalities is challenging, it is also what makes the job rewarding.

"I feel like I'm doing the right thing by being here -- not everyone (in America) is committed to serving their country," said Airman 1st Class Thomas Femia who deployed from Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom. "I knew being here at Balad was serious -- but I was surprised at how nice the people have been."

Armed with the honor of being a security forces Airman, they are required to enforce the rules for everyone, regardless of rank.

"I'm a stickler for discipline, and we must be professional because we enforce standards," said Tech. Sgt. Michael Moore the assistant flight chief. His mobile flightline patrol is able to assist security forces members who are responding to those engaged in enemy contact. "Some think we don't have that authority, but I quell that quickly."

Out of the hundreds of desirable characteristics needed for the job -- Integrity reigns higher than all, said Staff Sgt. Carmine Androsiglio who is deployed from Germany.

"If you let someone get away with something, then you can be the cause of someone else's injury or suffering," Sergeant Androsiglio said. 

With the awesome responsibility of protecting the people, the gear a defender needs is critical to their ability to respond.

"Weapon, Kevlar and radio are the three most important things," Airman Femia said. This is his first deployment.

Another defender chimed in.

"Mike attached to the radio, sunglasses and gloves are good to have," said Senior Airman Eric Bergery, who is deployed from Aviano AB, Italy where his wife and a newborn await his return. "But, that gear means nothing if you don't have the stamina to last a 14-hour day," he said. "You can never get complacent. You've got to be able to multi-task, prioritize and have good listening skills."

"I believe knowledge of your job is key to making security forces a career," said Senior Airman Saralyn Blanchard who is deployed from Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Now on her second deployment, she said Balad AB is a much different experience.

"Here, it's the entire combat aspect, and you see firsthand how everything comes together. Without us, the aircraft and people wouldn't be safe -- our job does make a difference," Airman Blanchard said. At one time, I wanted to cross-train until I realized deep down the meaning behind this job."

Sergeant Shelton says he still loves the job.

"You see the rewards when you see Airmen grow into NCOs and NCOs grow into senior NCOs," he said.

"Master Sgt. Shelton helped me become a better NCO," said Staff Sgt. Edgardo Zena, who is on his first deployment as an NCO. "He's strict, but in a good way. He's been a good influence on the other NCOs here."

Although security forces Airmen are known for their discipline, everything needs balance, said Master Sgt. Kelly Winston, who will soon assume the B Flight assistant chief position.

"Our Air Force keeps getting younger and younger," Sergeant Winston said. "Back at home, some of these Airmen's flight sergeants may be hard on them. These Airmen are deployed away from home, and they need comfort as well as discipline.

"I like to get to know my Airmen -- about their personal lives. I care, but I also care enough to whip them into shape when they need it," said Sergeant Winston.

"I really believe I have something to offer this career field," he said. "I've grown up in security forces, and I feel as a senior NCO, I make a difference. Here, things are happening all around us. Our enemies want to destroy us. Part of my job is making sure these Airmen get back safe and sound," Sergeant Winston said.

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