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Air Guard security forces at the top of their game

by Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith
National Guard Bureau

4/26/2010 - PHOENIX (AFNS) -- Air National Guard security forces are at the top of their game, their top officer said here April 21.

"We're better equipped, better trained, better (tasked) than we have ever been," said Col. John Wakefield at a conference of nearly 400 ANG security forces personnel.

Thousands of them have deployed overseas since 9/11, and currently there are few glitches in the mobilization process for the Air Guard's more than 8,400 security forces.

Colonel Wakefield said a large percentage of mobilizations have changed from voluntary in 2005 to primarily involuntary today.

Later this year, mobilization numbers will decrease to about 200 security forces personnel in two annual cycles and the number of deployment locations also will decrease from four to two: Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The mobilization numbers are going down, and we have more viable missions too because of our demonstrated capabilities," Colonel Wakefield said.

He added that dwell time, or length of time at home station between deployments, has remained at one year every five for ANG security forces, which is the proper ratio directed by the secretary of defense.

ANG security forces currently are conducting base support operations as part of their deployments, which is a good thing, he said.

"They want to remain 'in the mix'; they want viable missions," Colonel Wakefield said. "No longer are we just the base populous protectors."

Beginning in 2011, ANG security forces will begin to operate "outside the wire" in two countries under the new "integrated defense concept," he said.

The Airmen also have a number of security missions to volunteer for, including security service for detainee movement operations from Guantanamo Bay, the Phoenix Raven program that provides worldwide flight security details and protecting the Army Guard's agribusiness development teams in Afghanistan.

"Were engaged in all of the Air Force security missions, wherever they are needed," Colonel Wakefield said. "I am very proud of what they do."

As good as things are, officials said there are challenges in their home-station missions.

Bill Albro, the Air Guard's director of installations and mission support, said full-time security forces at Air Guard bases need more manpower.

The traditional Guard positions across the country are more than 100-percent manned, which is a recruiting and retention success story in itself, but a recent manpower validation study of their full-time forces reports a shortfall.

Mr. Albro said another challenge comes from the stresses of nine year's worth of deployments on personnel, families and employers.

Some security forces members have mobilized six times since 9/11, he said.

Many are employed full-time in civilian law enforcement.

Mr. Albro said that local and state budget situations have police forces manning at minimum levels, so the deployment of their National Guard officers puts an added stress on their communities.

The fact that 40 of the 80 assigned security forces at a base mobilize as a team with their leaders allows flexibility in choosing who goes and who stays, and that helps, Mr. Albro said.

"In general, the security forces mobilizations are going pretty good," he said.

Colonel Wakefield said he is also concerned about the level of full-time support at Air Guard bases.

The current full-time crew at stand-alone ANG bases around the country comprises 30 security personnel, including 18 Active Guard Reserve, or AGR, members and 12 civilian personnel, who provide installation security. Co-located wings only have three AGRs and three civilians, since the base host is responsible for overall security.

"But that only gives me a response capability," said Colonel Wakefield.

Air Guard security forces also are ramping up their homeland security missions, to enhance their capability in domestic operations, Colonel Wakefield said.

Reaching out to other specialties, the security forces Airmen gathered here this week for a combined civil engineer and security forces conference to discuss budgets, security operations, equipment, training, mobilizations and missions.

"These two groups make up the 'Go to War' deployable arm of (our directorate)," Colonel Wakefield said. "It was the first joint conference in our history and was heralded as an outstanding success."

Colonel Wakefield said in today's fiscally constrained world it was a "financially sound plan" to combine the two career fields for enhanced crosstalk and information sharing.

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