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Force Protection Battlelab inactivates

by Carolyn J. Lyon
37th Contracting Squadron

10/3/2007 - LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- In a reunion-like setting, current and past members of the Air Force's Force Protection Battlelab gathered at the Air Force Security Forces Center here Sept. 28 to mark the end of an era in force protection, the inactivation of the battlelab.

This ceremony served as both personal and professional closure for members past and present. Presiding over the ceremony was Col. Bob Tirevold, AFSFC commander and the battlelab's final commander.

Three of the four former commanders, retired Cols. Don Collins, Tommy Dillard Jr. and Mike Vendzules, were present as was retired Brig. Gen. Dick Coleman, former AFSFC commander and director of Air Force security forces. 

Also attending the ceremony were some of the key contributors to the success of the battlelab including former staff scientists Col. Debra Niemeyer and Col. Jim Swaby, and Jay Flaherty and Don Lowe, who were with the battlelab since its inception in 1997.

The mission of the Force Protection Battlelab was to identify, evaluate and recommend innovative concepts for protecting personnel, facilities and weapon systems by rapidly measuring their potential through modeling, simulation, assessment and operational employment. This was accomplished in a dynamic, multi-disciplinary environment of 12 career fields.

What made the battlelab unique, Col Tirevold said, is that, "(people with) many functional (Air Force specialty codes) worked out of here; a number of disciplines providing a genuine team effort to ensure mission effectiveness and success."

General Coleman told those in attendance he was given a "free hand to choose who he wanted to have on board when the battlelab was activated.

"I learned to turn you loose," he said to the battlelab alumni, "and watch all you talented men and women brief displays, weaponry and tactical disciplines to the top personnel in their fields. Don't forget what you left here; don't be afraid to reach out for something that isn't possible...because it is."

In highlighting the impact of the battlelab on force protection, Colonel Tirevold reviewed the 18-month initiative cycle used to take an idea, turn it into a concept, and prove or disprove it as a solution to an existing or emerging problem.

He also recounted the impact of some of the more than 200 projects completed since the battlelab opened, including pathogen detection devices, lauded by the Air Force surgeon general for saving thousands of lives around the world; the publication of the Vehicle Bomb Mitigation Guide; numerous robotics advances; pioneering work in small unmanned aerial vehicles; and the joint improvised explosive device neutralizer.

Key contributors to those and other initiatives and projects were recognized along with the role they played and continue to play today in the war on terrorism.

The newly-formed Force Protection Innovation Division, led by Col. Mike Trapp, "Will keep moving forward, partnered with the surgeon general's office, looking for innovative force protection solutions for the warfighter," Colonel Tirevold said in closing, "This continued capability, as an integral part of a prestigious organization, will continue to support our great Air Force with a focus on protecting our people, our resources, and executing our mission."

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