Air Force Security Forces is Looking Back to Adapt to the Future
CMSgt Donald S. Gallagher

Security Forces has a long and distinguished history filled with change. Through the decades we evolved from our humble beginnings as Military Police and Air Police, to Security Police, and finally in the late 1990’s as Security Forces. During these periods, emphasis shifted between law enforcement, Air Base Ground Defense, and resource security, depending on the political environment and threat.

Today is no different. We face “peer-peer” and “near-peer” competitors in both nuclear and non-nuclear capabilities, including such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. These current challenges and key events require us to change once more. This is how the career field can best defend air and space bases wherever our nation needs us to do so. We must learn from our past to fight current and future threats.

From approximately September 11, 2001 until 2018, our career field focused on Air Base defense and counterinsurgency in the AFCENT theater. After that time period, we were not sure what the next fight would be. The career field worked hard to be great at everything – but it became clear that certain skills downrange atrophied.

Studies and working groups examined the career field and determined what Security Forces should be - words such agile, elite, qualified and proficient were often used. One word that was missing however was focus.

Becoming an agile and elite force is virtually unachievable without focus.

Today, our Focus is provided by a Chief of Staff of the AF initiative - DEFNXT 32. The principal goal is to refocus Air Base Ground Defense competencies as the Security Forces foundation from which all is constructed. This initiative draws on our past and began in March 2021. It will wrap up by end of 2023. DEFNXT32 will ensure we are organized, equipped, and have the training backbone to be the world’s most agile and elite Air Base Ground Defense force.

Near-peer competitors will not allow our Air Force to organize for deployment like we did in the past. Fiscal and global constraints make it prohibitive to establish large basing footprints around the world. The days of large air bases like we had in England during WW2, Kimpo during the Korean conflict, Tan San Nut in Vietnam, Balad & Bagram in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively will serve as an easy target for our enemies moving forward.

These assumptions drove the development of the Agile Combat Employment (ACE) concept where the Air Force will project power from small non-enduring locations for anywhere from 24-72 hours. This will require Defenders who can operate in small teams and squad-sized elements to defend that footprint through integration of multi-capable Airmen into the Air Base Ground Defense team. This could be in the Pacific, fighting island to island or in the European theater moving from airfield to airfield. These teams must be able to shoot, move, and communicate; perform mounted and dismounted patrols; guarantee perimeter defense; and be ready to move out to a new location - and do it all over again at a moment’s notice.

Our DEFNXT initiatives for equipment are critical to ensure we can defend air and space power while organized for ACE. We have almost completed the fielding of new weapons systems to the force.  We replaced the Beretta M9 after 30 years of use with the M18. After almost 20 years of service from the M4, we began fielding the M4A1 Carbine Rifle to replace the legacy rifle which also brings back the automatic firing option. Our M320 Grenade launchers with their incredibly accurate laser sights replaced the ageless M203s, making leaf sights and quadrant sights a thing of the past.

Additionally, due to the ever-changing face of warfare, we are looking at the feasibility of the returning some of our weapons systems of the past.  We need to question everything and think bigger than we have in the past. We are looking at weapons used today in Ukraine and comparing their capabilities.

The future fight will have our SSgts, TSgts, and MSgts leading Fire Teams and Squads in dynamic situations for short periods of time. Therefore, our training must prepare them for that.

In the past year we took a comprehensive look at our full range of training courses and determined that we must establish realistic, hard and challenging training for all Defenders ranging from the 3 Level Apprentice Course and Officers Course to the advanced training we were providing to our NCOs/SNCOs & Officers. Arguably, the stage for everything we do is firmly established at the Security Forces School House.

Some of the names of our “New” courses may sound very familiar to you. The Combat Leaders Course (CLC) returned and went live August 2022. This replaced the Intermediate Course that existed since Fall of 2018. It is tough and focuses on our SSgts/TSgts and our newest Officers.

Our Advanced Course was replaced by another familiar course from the past - IDC3, otherwise known as the Integrated Defense Command, Control, Course. This course places our SNCOs/CGOs/FGOs in leadership roles in “S” functions as they “run” operations in a deployed situation, plan the base defense and test their planning vs. computer generated scenarios.

The Security Forces Officers Course (SFOC) relaunched as the Basic Officers Course (BOC), the course builds on individual, and team skills and places our future Defender leaders in stress-based leadership scenarios that culminate with a 14-day FTX before graduation.

The last course relaunch is our 3-level Apprentice course which will be known as the Basic Defender Course (BDC). This 13-week course will focus on Individual and Team skills and will spend a significant amount of time on shoot/move/communicate skills and introduces Defenders to the basics of mounted/dismounted/perimeter defense operations. Students will qualify with their weapons and then fire on three additional occasions to continue to sharpen their basic rifle and pistol marksmanship skills.  This course will also conclude with an FTX to preform basic Air Base Ground Defense operations. To free up time and space and to ensure proper focus on the basics of Air Base Ground Defense, we removed law enforcement subjects, except for basic searching & handcuffing, jurisdiction and rights advisement from the curriculum.

Many have heard the career field is splitting, and Law Enforcement and Security will become separate again. That is not accurate. In order to ensure we are agile and elite Air Base Ground Defenders, we are going to begin their careers building core skills. A subset of our military members will then get to professionalize in Law Enforcement, ensuring we are experts at that important part of our mission.

We created a Law Enforcement SEI as we move to “professionalize” our Law Enforcement mission again. We will publish the qualifying factors to be considered for selection to attend Law Enforcement training at either the Veterans Administration Law Training Course (VALETC) or the Marine Corps Basic Police Officers Course (BPOC) and award or the SEI. The career field is professionalizing; it is not splitting nor is it specializing.

These are just a few of initiatives we as a career field have been working one over the last 18 months. As you can see, whether it’s how we organize for war, the weapons systems we employ, the way we train, or the way we conduct Air Base Ground Defense and Law Enforcement, what was once old is new again. We are learning from the past to adapt to the future. We will continue to evolve as a career field - always improving our fighting position and always striving to be better than we were the day before.

We are still jack of all trades, but we are masters of one: Air Base Ground Defense!

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