Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four articles on the Security Forces Squadron mission here at Ellsworth.
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. – A lone figure wearing a dark, midnight-blue beret stands guard at a gate. It’s rush hour at Ellsworth as personnel make their way to their jobs.
As the first face they will see that day, he is responsible for representing Ellsworth in his professionalism and politeness. He greets drivers and their passengers as he inspects their credentials to enter.
Always alert to threats, he remains constantly aware of his surroundings. When it comes to the safety of his Air Force family, no detail is too small. While the day-to-day tasks of an Ellsworth gate guard may not seem to be a glamorous role to fill, it is one of utmost importance.
On a normal day, the task may seem mundane. However, Airmen of the 28th Security Forces Squadron know how crucial it is to protect the base from any threat that may stumble upon its doors. This is evident through the mission statement these defenders live by, “To protect and defend Ellsworth Air Force base, deploy expeditionary security forces and enable Air Force, joint and coalition missions.”
“It varies from day-to-day,” said Amn Jose Sanchez, response force member assigned to the 28th SFS. “From someone not having the proper identification to disgruntled people coming up to the gate, we just prepare [ourselves] for when they come. We provide a deterrence to keep everyone on base safe, allowing all the squadrons to do their job.”
The gate guard duty is only one of the many daily tasks performed by members of the 28th SFS. From the gates to the armory, securing the installation and patrolling the streets, defenders are on guard 24/7.
With a total force of 237 members made up of enlisted, officer and civilian Airmen, Security Forces can divvy out personnel to ensure all tasks are met with success.
“We have a lot of jobs as defenders,” said Airman 1st Class Savannah Dudley, a response force member assigned to the 28th SFS. “We have police patrols, gate guards, flight line security and MQ-9 guards, emergency responders for duress, the flight chief, alarms monitor, K9, Combat Arms Training and Maintenance, the armory, traffic control, and confinement. No matter where you are posted, you always have to be on your toes.”
William Speck, a police officer with the Department of Air Force Defense assigned to the 28th SFS, explained why there are so many different fields they are tasked with.
“We have about five to seven thousand people on base and a lot of money on the flightline, so we have to make sure both [the aircraft] and personnel stay protected,” Speck said. “We just make sure it runs smoothly by providing the different squadrons and their people a safe place to operate.”
The Pentagon spends millions of dollars protecting their aircraft, supplies and people – and members of Ellsworth often express their gratitude.
“One of the greatest things about this job is people saying thank you,” Dudley said. “Thanking us for what we do in this job. We know no one wants to sit at the long gate line or get pulled over, but it keeps everyone safe.”
Dudley explained that in this day and age people don’t often like police officers, but Security Forces can’t let that affect their jobs or what they do.
“The job is its own reward in a way,” Speck said. “We come out here and deal with the people and help them out whenever we can. It takes a special person to be a cop.”