U.S. Air Force Col. Kirsten Aguilar, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and 673d Air Base Wing commander, and U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Lee Mills, JBER and 673d ABW command chief, participated in a 673d Security Forces Squadron immersion tour at JBER, Alaska, Feb. 2, 2021.
The tour kicked off at the base defense operations center, or BDOC – the command-and-control facility for all security and law enforcement operations on the installation.
“BDOC handles all the dispatches for the base, maintaining all the calls, getting the information and dispatching the units to any emergency that might need to be taken care of,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Geovanii Pacheco, the 673d SFS flight chief. “They are like the eyes in the sky as far as pinpointing where a specific incident is and directing units to that area.”
Pacheco explained the Airmen manning the BDOC share background information with patrolmen encountering an individual, such as if that individual has warrants for their arrest or multiple DUIs.
BDOC Airmen also communicate with outside agencies such as the Anchorage Police Department, Pacheco noted, and monitor alarm and security systems.
The tour continued within the building at the armory, where armorers are responsible for outfitting all Air Force weapons carriers. Body cameras, radios, Tasers, batons, rifles, pistols, magazines and pepper spray are some of items a defender might carry during a shift.
Aguilar and Mills had the opportunity to deploy Tasers on a target dummy, and learned when a Taser is most appropriate to gain control of an individual.
From there, Aguilar and Mills stepped over to participate in training scenarios, just as security forces personnel do, sitting in a simulated patrol car in front of wide monitors. Security forces personnel practiced receiving calls from and communicating with dispatch, operating a patrol car and pulling up to a scene, and practiced de-escalation and maintaining control of a situation.
“Our defenders practice skills in order to successfully negotiate or neutralize a threat with their words,” Pacheco said. “They’re learning how to talk to people and get more comfortable with their overall environment when they encounter anybody on the road.”
The tour included part of an OC-spray class, also known as oleoresin capsicum or pepper spray, where U.S. Airman 1st Class Avery Williams, 673rd SFS installation entry controller, was pepper-sprayed before fighting off a simulated physical attack and apprehending the attacker.
“I was blown away when I found out the wing commander and command chief were coming to see me get OC’ed,” Williams said. “It was a bit exhausting but I kept going, I pushed through. Having the wing commander and command chief there definitely gave me motivation to keep going and do my absolute best.
“When we deploy OC spray, it can get anywhere and everywhere,” Williams continued. “It’s good to know what the feeling is like so we’re not thinking we’re going to be fine.”
To carry a lethal weapon such as a pistol or rifle, security forces personnel must qualify at Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM).
“We train the entire installation, Air Force-wise, on all the weapons systems we have in our inventory,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Neiner, the noncommissioned officer in charge of CATM. “It could be anything for mobility purposes, deployment purposes, or for duty like security forces – they arm up every day so they need to qualify every so often.”
The 673d SFS’s CATM instructors qualify 4,000 Air Force personnel annually, said Neiner, while still making time to maintain and inspect weapons.
The security forces team demonstrated the functions of the body camera during a simulated DUI patrol response and standard field sobriety test. Aguilar and Mills watched the demonstration in-person and livestreamed to a laptop from one of the defender’s body cameras.
“When we have an incident, BDOC is able to pull up the live feed of our camera to see everything that is happening in real time as soon as we press record,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jasmine Scott, the 673d SFS Kodiak Flight flight sergeant. “The body cam is to record any and every response we have as a patrolman. It's also to work as evidence for when we have cases that go to court.”
The body cameras and all their data are stored securely in the armory, where the recorded videos and photos cannot be edited or deleted.
The lethal and nonlethal weapons and training are all part of a patrolman’s kit, and patrol is a key part of the defenders’ job, Pacheco said.
“The function of patrolling the base is not only to maintain safety for the public of JBER, but we’re also out there almost as a point of deterrence, deterring individuals from engaging in nefarious acts on the installation and ensuring people are in compliance with road safety measures,” he explained.
Patrolmen being dispersed around the base also allows them to quickly respond to a nearby call if needed.
That afternoon, the 673d SFS immersion included a perimeter patrol and inspection. Since much of the installation and its perimeter are inaccessible by car or truck, defenders use snow machines and MRZRs, gas-powered combat vehicles, to inspect the perimeter fencing.
“It's always important to check the perimeter of the installation, checking the security of it, and ultimately keeping the people of JBER safe and ensuring there are no unauthorized personnel breaking through the wire,” Pacheco said. “If there are breaks in the wire, we can try to pinpoint where somebody might have tried to come onto base and try to get them off the installation.”
The day continued with a military working dog (MWD) building search and controlled aggression demonstration with Aguilar herself as a decoy, then concluded with a kennel visit.
“The primary purpose of the military working dog teams is to provide security throughout the installation,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nelson Acosta, 673d SFS MWD trainer supervisor. “All of our dogs are trained for dual-purpose – they’re trained on substance [either narcotics or explosives] detection and on patrol.”
Part of that training includes an obstacle course which familiarizes the dogs with confined tunnels, ramps, and other terrain features.
Aguilar departed from the kennel in a patrol car driven by Scott, her driver for the immersion.
“It was very unique to get that one-on-one mentorship when we were driving from one place to the next and we had some very good conversations,” Scott said. “[Aguilar] called it a TDY [temporary duty] for a day to our unit, and she got to see in-depth what every section in security forces does. This was a wonderful experience to actually show her, to paint a better picture of our daily operations and what our Airmen are out here doing.”
As the immersion ended, JBER’s defenders continued to patrol, train and monitor to maintain the safety of JBER and its community.
“Despite the harsh weather conditions and hours that our defenders experience on a daily basis, they maintain the utmost professionalism day in and day out to carry out the objectives – safety of the JBER public as well as all of the resources on the base,” Pacheco said.