An opportunity to remember

  • Published
  • By Maj. Erik Bruce
  • 28th Security Forces Squadron commander
During National Police Week, spanning May 11 to 17, communities across the country will come together to remember and honor law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, as well as the family members, friends and fellow officers they left behind. This year, the names of 358 fallen officers are being added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington.

In addition, May 15 - Peace Officers Memorial Day - U.S. flags will be flown at half staff as a special show of respect to the nation's fallen law enforcement officers.

National Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day take on special meaning to me this year as I remember a fellow security forces member and true American hero -Senior Airman Jason Nathan.

Airman Nathan dreamed of working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, after attending Fort Valley State University, Airman Nathan was prevented from entering police academy because of his age. Undeterred from his law enforcement dream, he enlisted in the Air Force as a security forces member.

I first met Airman Nathan, or simply "Nate," as he was known by his many friends, at Fort Lewis, Wash. where the men and women of the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, Detachment 6, first assembled as a unit.

We would spend the next 45 days in U.S. Army training to conduct our Iraqi Police Transition Team mission.

The living conditions were austere and the training schedule was grueling. Nevertheless, Airman Nathan excelled in every area - from self defense tactics to security technologies, from combat lifesaver medical training to mounted gunnery. It was there at Fort Lewis that I realized how fortunate I was to have him on my team.

We arrived at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, April 28, 2007, for a six-month tour of duty to train Iraqi police. Airman Nathan had been hand-picked for the role of M-240B gunner on my District Police Transition Team security squad, a position of great responsibility in recognition of his superior capabilities. He performed flawlessly, earning praise from his peers and squad leader on a recurring basis. To the Outlaws (our unit designation), he was a friend, a role model and an inspiration.

On June 23, 2007, his convoy was returning from a very successful force protection exercise where the Iraqi police, who had been trained by this team over the previous weeks, had just demonstrated their mastery of their new skills.

During this convoy, Airman Nathan was killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near the vehicle; he gave his life on his thirty-fourth combat patrol, courageously protecting his squad members and assisting the Iraqi people in their pursuit of freedom from oppression and terror.

Airman Nathan belonged to a great new generation of Airmen who joined after the attacks of Sept. 11. When he joined, the United States was already fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he clearly understood that he would likely be required to deploy into harm's way. He embodied our Air Force core values of integrity, service and excellence.

He is just one of 159 security forces members currently listed by the Air Force Security Police Association as killed in the line of duty. I invite you to join me in saluting this American hero and all law enforcement officers during the 2008 National Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day events.