Defenders Are Amazing!

CMSgt Tamala L. Hartz

In the last few months I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by all the generations of our career field. In August the Security Forces World Wide Symposium brought Commanders and Security Forces Managers together to discuss the future, remember the past, and celebrate 20 years of being Defenders. The commitment and drive that our Squadron leadership has toward making the lives of our Defenders better was unmistakable throughout the event. The General delivered her intent and priorities, gave the career field direction and aimed our efforts toward future accomplishments. Walking out of this event there was optimism, plus anytime you have more than 250 Security Forces members in one place it is sure to be moving.

I was also fortunate enough to be invited to two other very important events that represent a sort of bookending of the last 70 years of our existence. I attended the annual Air Force Security Forces Association National Meeting held here in Washington D.C.. I got the tremendous opportunity to visit with some of the Defenders who have shaped the legacy we enjoy today. It was such an honor to meet these great people who even after their service, remain committed to the Defender family and continue to support our Airmen. These heroes shared with us perspective on our past, present, and future. Through this I quickly realized the challenges we face today are not new, they just have different details. Being with these amazing individuals reminded me that for some being Air Police, Security Police or Security Forces is not a job, it changes who you are.

Then in October, I spoke with a group of more than 500 Defenders before a ruck march at Camp Bullis in Texas sponsored by our Security Forces Academy. The audience consisted of Defender candidates trying to get through the academy, retirees, many Security Forces members, and the family and friends of the fallen. This event is held annually to honor fallen Defenders and their families and remind us of the history of sacrifice we must all live up to. Usually the ruck focuses attention on the Defenders we have lost during Operations IRAQI and ENDURING FREEDOM. This year however, 186 Defenders killed in the line of duty during the past 70 years were recognized and honored with this event. Kudos to the Academy leadership and event organizers for an outstanding idea and a first-class event. Again this event was a reminder of how incredible we are as a collective and of the bond we feel to each other. In the sea of Security Forces members it is easy to feel uplifted and motivated, but it is what happened after the ruck that set the stage for this article.

After the ruck march was over, I happened to see a Security Forces MSgt walking on the side of the road with his ruck, limping a little. I pulled over to ask him what he was doing and he said he was walking back to the gate to call a taxi to take him back to Lackland. While giving this MSgt a ride I was reminded of how amazing Defenders are. Turns out the MSgt was TDY to Lackland for one of the advanced courses and had heard about the ruck march, but he did not have a rental car to get to Camp Bullis. Therefore, he took a taxi at 0500 from Lackland to the Camp Bullis gate, walked from the gate to the start point to participate in the Fallen Defender Ruck March. He rucked the 4-mile course, up and down Three Bears and was headed back to Lackland. He felt committed to those Defenders who had made the ultimate sacrifice and believed the event was so important that he wanted to be part of it regardless of the expense, difficulty or effort required to get there. He never expected anyone to notice, he did it because it was the right thing to do. 

This MSgt’s act hit me like a bolt of lightning. What he had done became part of a confluence of events beginning with the gathering at the World Wide, the AFSFA symposium, and carrying through to the Fallen Defender ruck march. Everything was encapsulated and represented in this MSgt. Here was the living embodiment of Defenders, past, present, and future. Here was what we believe, what we honor, what we love about being Defenders, what we hold sacred. 

I always sensed there was a long unbroken line of honor, character and values that connected us all, but now I could see it as clearly as if it had been spelled out for me in divine revelation. Our career field is built on a foundation formed on the core values of those Americans willing to wear the badge and beret over the last 70-years. Regardless of the training, equipment, and technologies, it is always the Defender under the uniform that makes the difference.

This is why I know Defenders are AMAZING!!!!

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Tet Rememberance Ceremony
50th Anniversary of the Tet Offensive
30-31 January 2018
Lackland AFB TX
SF Academy is the host
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