MOFFETT FEDERAL AIRFIELD, Calif. -- In October, approximately 30 Airmen from the 129th Security Forces Squadron participated in a training mission at Beale Air Force Base near Marysville, Calif. The purpose was twofold: annual training for traditional Guardsmen, and pre-deployment weapons qualification.
Over the course of four days, participating Airmen got the chance to test their reflexes on heavy-duty firepower: the M203 Grenade Launcher, M240B Machine Gun, and M249 Light Machine Gun, as well as brushing up on their standard service weapons, the M4 Carbine and the M9 Pistol; especially in darkness, using night vision goggles. All of these weapons will be assigned to the squadron for their deployment.
Though some members had undergone similar training in the past, the course served as a much-needed refresher.
"It's a big responsibility. You have a big kill radius and a lot of power, so you have to know what you're doing," said Senior Airman Ricardo Cuellar, 129th Security Forces Squadron. "The secret is to just aim and shoot. If it goes left, you adjust right; if it goes right, you adjust left, always correcting for dead space. Even if you can't see the target because of the terrain, the trajectory of the weapon will show you what it hits."
According to Tech. Sgt. William Chaddock, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance Instructor for the 129th Security Forces Squadron, the ultimate mission of security forces is about two things: protecting resources and saving lives.
"I don't want Airmen to come out here for training with the mindset they're just checking off a box of requirements, but rather be in the mentality they're going to give 100 percent and get 100 percent back from us. So when they go overseas they feel 100 percent prepared to do their best," Chaddock said. "Weapons firing qualification is a huge portion of that, and I hope our defenders come away feeling fulfilled that what we're doing here is another tool in their tool belt."
When not on the firing range, the 129th Security Forces Squadron supplemented their training by marching with rucksacks, receiving classroom instruction on weapon nomenclature, and practicing their Self-Aid and Buddy Care (SABC) techniques, from extricating personnel out of armored vehicles to moving patients out of the field via NATO litters.
"We try to expose the troops to more realistic training that we normally don't get at Moffett, closer to what we might encounter downrange," said Staff Sgt. Clinton Bailey, 129th SABC instructor and Unit Training Manager for the 129th Mission Support Squadron.
A Fresh Face
For Airman 1st Class Katelyn Kunze, there's nothing unusual about being one of few women to work in the male-dominated arena of security forces.
"I don't think anything of it. It gives me more motivation," Kunze said. "Especially with the stereotype of how females can't do everything males can do, so I just have to go out and prove myself."
Having finished technical training in May, Kunze is already set to deploy later this year with the 129th Security Forces Squadron, based out of Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, Calif. She was inspired to enlist because of her twin sister, Shaelyn, also a Security Forces member currently stationed at Minot Air Base in N.D.
"My parents are very supportive. They're worried just like any parents would be, but they know we're out there to do a mission and that we're trained right, so at the end of the day I'm going to be coming home," Kunze said.
"The Big D"
Looming in the background of their training, one word always seems to hang in the air: Deployment. At some point in the near future, the 129th Security Forces Squadron knows that for six months overseas in an unfamiliar scenario, their skills will be put to the test.
Having deployed to Kuwait from 2010 to 2011, Chaddock said that security forces typically provides air-based defense of personnel and resources--only with much more stringent levels of security. To pull off a successful security operation in a deployed environment takes three things: manpower, effort, and intelligence.
"When you deploy with security forces, you work with people from different branches of service, and from different countries who speak different languages," Chaddock said. "There are so many barriers to break through, and with much higher levels of security procedures."
With a wartime mission to conduct combat rescue in any environment, the 129th Rescue Wing has made more than 1,000 saves, utilizing its Guardian Angel Pararescue squadron, its MC-130P Combat Shadow aircraft squadron and its HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter squadron. Members of security forces, therefore, view it as their duty to keep the operators safe--in other words, protecting the protectors.
"We go out there to protect people so they can save other people's lives. This is why it's important that we know how to do our job. If we don't know, then lives can be lost," said Kunze. "When we complete tasks and training like this, it's a great feeling to know that we're going to be fully prepared for this deployment, and I'm ready to take it head on."