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Augmentees pump up Security Forces’ power

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer stands with a gas mask for 20th Security Forces Squadron training in Sumter, S.C., March 6, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn Brewer stands with a gas mask for 20th Security Forces Squadron training in Sumter, S.C., March 6, 2019. 20th SFS defenders have to train with M-4 rifles and gas masks on for their deployments downrange and be qualified to carry them during their daily duties of defending Shaw. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christopher Maldonado.)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- On a calm Monday morning I was typing at my desk when my superintendent came up and told me I would be training with Security Forces.

Security Forces has a motto: “Provide world-class force protection with pride and integrity.” Roughly 300 defenders carry out this motto at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina. During manning shortages, the 20th Security Forces Squadron leaders will call upon Airmen from other career fields to join the fight. This imitative is known as the Augmentation Duty Program.

As part of the augmentee draft, I had the opportunity to experience what it was like to train under the 20th SFS and learn how to work beside the base defenders.

I walked into the warm building at 7:30 a.m., apparently a half hour early, which allowed me to survey the classroom and watch as SFS members loaded their weapons to prepare for their duty day. Watching them go through their safety procedures and strap weapons to themselves made me wonder how much of that I would be doing.

I quickly learned this course was one that would require me to pay close attention. Every day was packed with hands-on experience and real life examples we would all need to retain for annual training.

Those three days were very intense. All knowledge gained is essential because we could potentially be in life threatening situations.

Learning new code words, techniques and fighting stances challenged me in new ways. I had to think for myself and exercise judgement with either lethal or “less-lethal” force in various circumstances.

The first day was like an education boot camp because we had three written tests on the use of force in one day. The one thing everyone was really looking forward to was being electrocuted for five seconds, or getting “tased”. I signed up and was eager to see what it was like, until the first Airman went and proceeded to writhe and flail with his legs in the air. After this I decided I was not excited to go after all.

As people were getting “tased”, screaming and slapping the floor, Carl Johnson, 20th Fighter Wing SFS augmentee instructor, said those who got “tased” would be considered subject matter experts if they ever had to testify about the effects of it.

I spent the second day, qualifying with the M-4 rifle, which made me nervous and fidgety as I reacquainted myself with the weapon. After several hours of shooting with a heavy vest and gear on, I found myself realizing the gravity and importance of this career field, as I pictured myself downrange with this rifle. This training day is important for trainees to stay focused because there have been Airmen who, sadly, were not able to hit enough marks on the targets and were not able to carry a weapon on duty.

Johnson told me the training Airmen receive is enough to help out our defenders, especially the use of force training because that knowledge is necessary in potentially life threatening situations.

The third and final day wrapped our knowledge into one hands on day spent searching our peers and practicing with rubber rifles. The instructor hid simulated weapons on one of our peers so we could practice searching each other. After conducting my search I only found one of two weapons hidden, which was something planned on by the instructor so he could teach us the spots an untrained eye could still miss. This taught us the importance of communication between the perpetrator and the defender.

As we all walked away on that last day I felt my eyes had been opened to what our base defenders really do and the effort that goes into training them. I have a lot more respect for their job and view it as something different every day, yet very serious. They defend the base from intruders and are the first ones to respond to an attack or changes from Bravo to Charlie. They protect the base from unfriendly and unsafe intruders, keeping Shaw a safe environment where children can safely play on the streets.