Defender for a day
By Airman 1st Class Denise Nevins, 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 22, 2016
ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
"Hey, listen! Hey, listen! Hey, listen!" Oh my goodness, please let this be part of my dream, I thought to myself. But alas, the sound of my alarm was very real. Silencing my alarm, I looked at the time. Four in the morning, oh boy.
I dragged myself out of bed, preparing for the day ahead. But this day wasn't like a normal work day for me, a photojournalist with the 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs office. No, not at all.
Today was the day I would be a defender. Okay, it was more like the day I would shadow members of the 28th Security Forces Squadron and learn more about what goes on during their daily routines. But nonetheless, I was excited for this opportunity.
Arriving at the Base Defense Operations Center at 4:45 a.m., 15 minutes prior to the start of the next shift, I could already hear our base's defenders at work, donning their gear or preparing for their shift. Then, at 5 o'clock on the dot, the fun began with two words: "FALL IN!"
The guard mount signified the beginning of the 12-hour shift, and I was beyond ready for the experience. The Airmen received normal safety briefings, talked about personal business in the flight, and prepared for the day. Even in the wee hours of the morning, they were all laughing and cracking jokes with one another.
When I was introduced as the photographer that would be their little paparazzo machine, I was met with responses of support, eagerness and my personal favorite, "I hope you brought some energy drinks with you."
Throughout the day, I experienced many different aspects of the security forces life, from the military working dogs to the Airmen who work behind the scenes in the BDOC. I was actually able to ride in patrol cars and hear many stories, sharing a lot of laughs.
Then all the joking suddenly changed when the radio crackled to life: "Exercise, exercise, exercise. Be advised, suspicious personnel have been sighted near Dock 90. Exercise." Immediately, the switch flipped and the situation was treated as the real thing, although it was only a practice round. Parking our patrol truck close to where the perpetrator had been reported, we all jumped out and the defenders led the search while carrying their weapons at low ready. I had my weapon as well; my trusty camera, ready to shoot.
Turning a corner around one of the buildings, we spotted the suspect.
"FREEZE, SECURITY FORCES! STAY WHERE YOU ARE!" a voice shouted across the flightline. Yet the suspect didn't listen and started running; a huge mistake on her part.
At least four defenders ran after her, quickly catching and detaining her. After the exercise ended, all the defenders gathered around and discussed the flow of the exercise - things they did well, what they could improve on, and how the exercise could flow more smoothly in the future.
When our shift was over, I left BDOC feeling exhausted, but I also left with a deeper appreciation of our security forces personnel. While people can joke about the "defenders of the gate," spending the day with them helped me realize they are so much more than what they are made out to be.
They are a family, and they all care not only for each other, but for the personnel on-base and our community as well. They take their duty seriously. They have their own unique experiences and stories, they all share laughter and pain. They are American Airmen; they are the 28th SFS defenders.