Training the best, preventing the worst

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

Editor’s note: This is the last in a series of four articles on the Security Forces Squadron mission here at Ellsworth.

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. – Sweat beads off his forehead as bullets whiz by to his left, and then right. A lone gunman approaches his position at the base entrance. The protector, acting in the first line of defense for those inside, readies his weapon. Relying on training, he mutters a final prayer and engages the assailant.

This is one example of the many potential dangers personnel of the 28th Security Forces Squadron could experience on any given day. As a result, these individuals consistently undergo multiple training sessions and simulations to prepare for the unexpected.

“There is a long list of training that security forces members are subjected to,” said Tech Sgt. Michael Vacca, the operations non-commission officer in charge assigned to the 28th SFS. “To name a few, there’s hand-to-hand combatives, marksmanship and weapons certification, non-lethal applications and scenarios, and use of force procedures.”

Vacca also mentioned base-specific measures they train for, from responding to incidents involving Ellsworth-specific aircraft, and to active shooters, to actions involving writing a traffic ticket or filling out a statement.

“The training that we go through is very effective,” said Airman 1st Class Christopher Parrish, a response force member assigned to the 28th SFS. “Compared to our tech school we are able to explore different methods while training for these situations.”

Parrish added without this training, especially during some of the crime scenes he has pulled up on, he would have no clue what to do.

“In order to do your job, you have to know your job,” Vacca said. “You cannot gain all the experience you need just from tech school. Since true experience comes with time, training is a tool we can use to help the airmen gain some experience.”

Technical school lessons provide more of a wide brush stroke which encompasses training required by the Air Force. However, once Airmen get to their first duty station, while the required training will continue, they will also receive more detailed, dedicated training that includes base-specific requirements.

“I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been here,” said Airman Alex Lloyd, a response force member assigned to the 28th SFS. “The training we do here is very important. We are dealing with lives and because of this we need to be on top of our game.”

Security forces personnel dedicate four, eight-hour days a month to training. Each shift conducts their own training usually consisting of two exercise scenarios and individual briefings.

However, with all they are taught, security forces personnel can still encounter some demanding situations.   

“The challenging parts of the job are seeing some of the worst things people are capable of,” Vacca stated. “Child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual assault, suicides – these are just a few of the things security forces personnel respond to and have to see and that's where excellent training and resources come into play.”

According to Lloyd, due to the training they receive, members of the 28th SFS are able to respond to these emergencies accordingly. They continuously run through scenarios to ensure it’s fresh on their minds so they can quickly, efficiently and professionally conquer the task.

“If you keep training you’re not going to mess up because you’ve gone over it countless times,” Parrish said. “The most challenging part of it is probably cramming all the stuff we have into our work schedules.”

With all their preparation, defenders of the 28th SFS are well equipped for anything that may come their way.

“These are trying times we currently live in,” Vacca said. “Security Forces Airmen are people too, people with a difficult job to do, and like anybody in the military, support them in their endeavor to secure, protect and represent their little piece of the Air Force.”