Military Wiki
United States Air Force Security Forces
Security Forces Badge
Active As Military Police (1942 - 1948)
As Air Police (1948 - 1966)
As Security Police (1966 - 1997)
As Security Forces (1997 - Present)
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Military police
Part of U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of the Air Force
Motto(s) Defensor Fortis[1]
Beret Flash USAF Security Forces beret flash.jpg
Occupation Badge United States Air Force Force Protection Badge.svg

United States Air Force Security Forces are the Security Forces, Department of the Air Force Police and Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD) forces of the United States Air Force. Security Forces, or simply "SF," were formerly known as Military Police (MP), Air Police (AP), and Security Police (SP).


The Security Forces career field has a long, rich history which predates the inception of the Air Force in 1947. The invention of the aircraft and its subsequent military use required a protective force to guard the aircraft and defend the people who fly and fight. In 1921, Italian General Giulio Douhet said, "It is easier and more effective to destroy the enemy's aerial power by destroying his nests and eggs on the ground than to hunt his flying birds in the air." Security Forces are, and have been, that protective force.

Military Police

Army Air Force Military Police colored unit at Columbus, Georgia in April 1942.

In early 1943, the first Army Aviation Military Police Companies were established from existing Army MP units. The USAF Security Forces lineage can be traced to its beginning in WWII with the German blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg relied on swift attacks by land and air. One of the tactics employed by blitzkrieg was the use of paratroops and airborne forces to capture, or destroy in advance, air bases. A key turning point in air base defensive thinking came with the loss of the island of Crete to German forces and the subsequent capture of the British air base at Maleme in 1941. This single action led then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to study British air base defense policy and in a condemning memo to the Secretary of State for Air and to the Chief of the Air Staff dated June 29, 1941, Churchill stated he would no longer tolerate the shortcomings of the Royal Air Force (RAF), in which half a million RAF personnel had no combat role. He ordered that all airmen be armed and ready “to fight and die in defense of their air fields” and that every airfield should be a stronghold of fighting air-ground men and not “uniformed civilians in the prime of life protected by detachments of soldiers.”[2] Churchill's directive resulted in formation of the RAF Regiment.

On February 12, 1942 the United States adopted the British air defense philosophy. It was then that the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, approved the allocation of 53,299 African-Americans to the Army Air Forces with the “stipulation that air base defense ‘for the number of air bases found necessary’ be organized and that "Negro personnel" be used for this purpose as required.” This order formed the Army Air Forces (AAF) air base security battalions in June 1942 and was influenced by racial as well as military considerations. Units were deployed throughout the European, Asian and African theaters and designed to defend against local ground attacks. These units were armed with rifles, machine guns, and 37-mm guns. Of the initial planned 296 air base security battalions, 261 were to be black, however, the widening Allied superiority of air and ground had reduced this threat and resulted in a diminished need for this goal and by 1943 inactivation of units formed had already begun. In 1945 all AAF air base security battalions were closed.[2]

Air Police

The National Security Act of 1947 established the current United States Department of Defense or DoD and formed the United States Air Force from the Army Air Forces as a separate service.[2] MP units serving with the Army Air Corps before this separation were transferred to the Air Force. The Army-Air Force agreement of 1947 stated that “each department will be responsible for the security of its own installations.” However, the agreement made no mention of an Air Force ground combat mission. Furthermore, the Key West Agreement of April 21, 1948 identified base defense as one of a number of functions common to all of the military services, yet, nowhere in the agreement was the assignment of the Air Force to defend its own bases.[2] On January 2, 1948, General Order No. 1 from Headquarters USAF designated those transferred units and personnel as "Air Police" (AP). On 1 September 1950, the first Air Police school was established at Tyndall AFB, Florida.

In June 1950 the Air Force began urgent operations focused on air base defense with the outbreak of the Korean War. A buildup of ground combat forces began. The center of this buildup was the expansion of the Air Force Air Police from 10,000 in July 1950 to 39,000 in December 1951. Still, one year into the war, the Air Provost Marshal reported that “the Air Force is without policy or tactical doctrine for Air Base Ground Defense.” In haste, Air Police serving as the cadre of this force were outfitted with armored vehicles, machine guns, and recoilless rifles. Air base defense was officially implemented by Air Force Regulation (AFR) 355-4 on March 3, 1953. AFR 355-4 defined air base defense “as all measures taken by the installation commander to deny hostile forces access to the area encompassing all buildings, equipment, facilities, landing fields, dispersal areas and adjacent terrain.” However, the regulation did not include provisions for sustained ground defense operations. Performance of this mission fell to the provisional base defense task forces to be organized and equipped like infantry. It was the Strategic Air Command’s (SAC) October 1952 edition of the SAC Manual 205-2 which rejected the notion that the USAF’s ground defense mission conflicted with Army functions. SAC officials felt that success of the Air Force mission might require point defense elements which the Army could not afford to protect, much less have the Air Force rely on the Army to come to the rescue. Though at times some 32,000 to 35,000 North Korean guerrillas were operating in United Nations controlled territory they ignored US air bases. This would not be the case for USAF Air Bases in the Republic of Vietnam.[2]

In 1952, the Air Police school was transferred to Parks AFB, California and redesignated as the "Air Base Defense School" to emphasize on air base defense capabilities. It soon became evident the emphasis on air base defense was not making much headway. On October 13, 1956, Air Police training was transferred to Lackland AFB, Texas where it evolved into Security Police training and eventually became the US Air Force Security Forces Academy.

On November 1, 1964, between 12:25 and 12:33 AM, Vietnamese Communist (VC) troops attacked Bien Hoa Air Base with six 81-mm mortars positioned about 400 meters north, outside the air base. The VC fired 60 to 80 rounds into parked aircraft and troop billets then withdrew undetected and unabated. The attack killed 4 US military personnel, wounded 30, destroyed and/or damaged 20 B-57 bombers. U.S. air bases had become targets and became routine targets thereafter. The Air Force was not allowed to patrol the perimeter of their bases. That role was left up to the Vietnamese Air Force. Also, the U.S. Army was cited as being tasked to control the security of the area around the air base and after action scrutiny along with politics served to foster distrust and jealousy between services, chains of command and the U.S. and Vietnamese services. As a result, air bases in South Vietnam were left vulnerable. By striking at USAF air bases the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and VC employed Giulio Douhet's military concept which stated the only effective way to counter air power was to destroy its bases on the ground. This concept has also been proven effective during the Indochina War, from 1946–1954, when the Viet Minh regularly attacked French air bases and were successful.[2]

The NVA/VC routinely reconnoitered U.S. air bases for lengthy periods and assessed them for vulnerable points which included terrain, reinforcement approach routes, reaction time of artillery support, and the daily routines of U.S. personnel which included their sleeping and eating times, patrol operations and guard shift changes. However, as good and exact as their reconnaissance was, their failure and/or inability to chart Security Police patrol patterns became evident in one case when their presence was detected by a USAF Sentry Dog Patrol and a Security Alert Team which lead to their capture. During another incident, nine Sappers, well-trained and highly disciplined combat engineers, failed to locate Security Police postings on the flight line. The anxious Sappers met their end when they tried to enter the parking ramp by passing directly in front of a SP machine gun emplacement.[2]

The USAF Sentry Dog program was a product of the Korean War. By 1965 the USAF had a pool of sentry dog teams available for deployment to South Vietnam. Nightly at every air base, sentry dog teams were deployed as a detection and warning screen in the zone separating combat forces from the perimeter. Nearly all air base defense personnel agreed that the Sentry Dog Teams rendered outstanding service. Some of which went as far as to say “Of all the equipment and methods used to detect an attacking enemy force, the sentry dog has provided the most sure, all inclusive means."[2]

In response to the threat to air bases, the Chief of Staff initiated the Safe Side Program under the Seventh Air Force, creating an experimental 226-man unit, the 1041st USAF Police Squadron (Test), trained in using the M-16 rifle, M-60 machinegun, and air base ground defense tactics. After their TDY deployment to Vietnam in the first half of 1967 to field test the concept, the Safe Side participants were used as instructors and cadre for future units. All were oriented toward US Army Ranger operations, much of which did not necessarily directly apply to Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD), such as long-range recon/ambush, land navigation, stream crossing, and rappelling.

Security Police

USAF security policemen (Far left: Amn Marc Joel Berger) from Tan Son Nhut Air Base watch for Viet Cong infiltration attempts along the base perimeter during the Vietnam war.

In 1966, the name of the career field was changed to "Security Police" (SP) and the basic Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) from 771XX to 811XX.[citation needed] The term was considered descriptive, concise and uniformly applicable as it combined two main mission elements: Police and Security functions.[citation needed]

In 1968, the Air Force accepted the Safe Side Program's recommendation to establish 559-man Combat Security Police Squadrons (CSPS) organized into three field flights. Three CSPS were incrementally activated, trained and deployed in 179-day TDY rotations to South Vietnam. On March 15, 1968, the 821st CSPS began a hasty training program at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and was in place at Phan Rang Air Base on its TDY deployment by April 15. The 822nd CSPS was organized, more completely trained, and replaced the 821st in August 1968. The 823rd CSPS was trained at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and replaced the 822nd in March 1969, remaining until August 1969 when it was replaced by the 821st. Troop ceilings on forces in South Vietnam did not permit permanent assignment of a CSPS until December 1969, when the withdrawal of U.S. forces was in progress. Safe Side was discontinued and the two CONUS units inactivated. Reduced to 250 personnel, the 821st CSPS remained in-country until February 1971, when it too was inactivated. Over time, the Air Force Security Police would hone their ground combat skills and tactics based on these initial squadrons and lessons learned in combat.[2]

In March 1971, the security police career field was split into two separate functions: Law Enforcement (AFSC 811X2) and Security (AFSC 811X0) specialties.[citation needed] Law Enforcement personnel provided the typical "police" response to safeguard personnel and property while Security personnel performed duties associated with physical security, the flight line and weapons storage areas.[citation needed] The standard issue sidearm for Security Police was the Smith & Wesson Model 15 Combat Masterpiece in caliber .38 Special with a 4-inch barrel, firing M41 .38 ball ammunition.[citation needed] In 1987, however, the standard weapon of the SP was changed to the Beretta-M9, a 9mm semi-automatic with a standard 15-round magazine.[3]

In 1996, the Khobar Towers Bombing lead to the reassessment of the force protection and Security Police mission and ultimately laid the foundation for the career field transformation into the current Security Forces.[citation needed] Security Police members SSgt Alfredo Guerrero, SrA Corey Grice and A1C Christopher Wager received the Airman's Medal for their actions prior to and after the terrorist attack.[4] Secretary of Defense William J. Perry stated "...the Khobar Towers attack should be seen as a watershed event pointing the way to a radically new mindset and dramatic changes in the way we protect our forces..."[citation needed]

Security Forces

Guarding Air Force One on the flight line in Iraq, 2009

As threats to the world security changed, so did the requirements for security police to better respond to worldwide contingencies and protect Air Force resources. Specialized fields with single skills could no longer meet AF needs.[citation needed] Consequently, Air Force Chief of Staff directed SP staff to reorganize the entire career field.[citation needed] In April 1997, three distinct career fields or Air Force Specialties (Air Force Specialty Code - AFSC) merged to become "Security Forces" (SF). Security Specialist (AFSC: 811X0), Law Enforcement Specialist (AFSC: 811X2) to include Military Working Dog Handler (AFSC: 811X0A), and Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (AFSC: 753X0). Upon completion of the merge, all SF personnel were reassigned AFSCs. The current AFSCs are as follows: Enlisted (3P0X1), MWD/K-9 (3P0X1A), CATM (3P0X1B), and Officers (31PX).

In 1997, the Air Force activated the 820th Base Defense Group, a Force Protection unit based at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. The unit is a trained force protection unit of 12 Air Force Specialty Codes with an airborne capability.[5]

The 435th Security Forces Squadron (435 SFS) is a United States Air Force unit capable of overland airlift, air assault, or airborne insertion into crisis situations. The unit incorporates more than 13 different specialties including people with civil engineering, medical, intelligence, investigative, fuels, logistics, personnel and security skills. It was formerly known as the 786th Security Forces Squadron (786 SFS).[citation needed] In March 2003, the 786 SFS participated in a combat parachute drop into Bashur Airfield in conjunction with the 173rd Airborne Brigade to open up the northern front in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.[citation needed] The 786 SFS is the first conventional Air Force unit to participate in a combat airborne jump.[citation needed] The 786 SFS was re-designated the 435th Security Forces Squadron on 16 July 2009, and falls under the 435th Contingency Response Group (CRG) (formerly 86 CRG).[citation needed]

Women In The Security Police Field

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A Security Forces Marine Patrol airman from MacDill AFB featured in Airman Magazine.

Female airmen were first introduced into the Air Force's law enforcement career field in 1971.[citation needed] The first women dog handlers came into service in 1973; and the first women entered the corrections field in 1974.[citation needed]

Renee, a San Francisco lawyer and a reservist, was assigned as a mobilization day assignee to the Air Police headquarters staff in 1962. During her career as a reservist she achieved the rank of colonel and served as the IMA to the office of the Deputy Chief of Security Police.

It was 1973 before the first female commissioned officer, Lt. Sally Kucera, was graduated from the Basic Security Police Officer's Course.[citation needed]

By 1976 the number of women in the career field had risen from 198 to 1,280 or to almost 4% of the force.[citation needed] Clearly, a dichotomy existed where the Security Police officer was concerned. The split career field affected only the enlisted force.[citation needed]

Officers might serve in any capacity including commanding combat troops in a war zone. In 1976, Lt. Pamela Kraus became the first woman to graduate from the Air Base Defense Course at Camp Bullis, Texas.[citation needed]

The same year, 1976, 100 women were selected to participate in a one year test of women serving in the security career field. Twenty five were assigned to each of four security units. The test was to determine whether or not women could perform the wide variety of security and ground defense tasks incumbent upon the career field.[citation needed]

Brig. General Jeane Holm, the officer with primary oversight of women's matters in the Directorate of Personnel, was opposed to arming the women with standard issue weapons carried in holsters on the side. Initially they were armed with the 2 inch barrel .38 and it was to be carried in the purse.[citation needed] During one staff visit, a young lady complained bitterly, "Hell, Colonel, I can't even find my lipstick in my purse. What will I do, if I need my gun?" Ultimately the women were armed the same as were the men.[citation needed]

In 1984, the full integration of the security police force was achieved when the Secretary of the Air Force approved a revised combat exclusion policy affecting Security Police women.[citation needed] This revision opened previously closed security specialties in combat zones to women.

In January 1985, the first female student attended the Security Specialist Course under the permanent program, and on May 1, 1985, twelve active duty women made up the first all female flight in the Security Specialist Course.[citation needed]

Uniform Items

Security Forces Shield

In 1959, General Curtis E. LeMay, the USAF Vice Chief of Staff, issued the first official AP shield to Brig General R. F. Burnham, the Air Provost Marshal. The shield actually started out as a Military Police/Air Police Brassard, but repeated requests to Air Force Headquarters finally resulted in the Air Force approving the first trial issue shield in 1957. Instead of the conventional police badge design, which most police units use today, the Security Police shield is unique in shape. The shield was later incorporated into a cloth design in the 1970s for use with the fatigue uniform and subsequently use with the Battle Dress Uniform. Leather name tags with the embossed shield were used in the early 1990s but were soon phased out.

The current shield was adopted in 1966, the birth year of the Security Police. It consists of a three-element design derived from the Great Seal of the USAF, surmounting a circular body representative of a warrior's battle shield, symbolic of the protection Security Forces provide to Air Force personnel and assets.

Individual elements of the design symbolize Air Force strengths and traditions. The American bald eagle, taken from the crest on the Great Seal, is the symbol of the United States and air striking power. The cloud formation depicts the creation of a new firmament, and the wreath on which the eagle is perched, composed of six alternate twists of silver and blue, incorporates the colors of the basic shield design. The coat of arms shield of the Great Seal, divided by the nebuly line formation representing clouds, is charged with the heraldic thunderbolt. The thunderbolt portrays striking power through the medium of air.

Blue Beret

A member of the USAF Security Forces (173rd Security Forces Squadron)

The Strategic Air Command's Elite Guard, an Air Police unit first established in December 1956 to provide security at USAF SAC headquarters, was the first USAF unit officially authorized to wear a blue beret (with affixed SAC patch) in 1957 as part of their distinct Elite Guard uniform.[6][7] The Elite Guard's dark blue serge wool beret was worn on duty, at both guard and ceremonial functions, from 1957 onwards.[8][9][10]

In 1966-67, during Operation Safe Side, the first Security Police beret was issued by the 1041st Security Police Squadron. This experimental and specially trained Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD) unit adopted a light blue beret displaying a falcon as its emblem. Operation Safe Side developed into the 82nd Combat Security Police Wing, consisting of three "combat security police" squadrons, but was inactivated in December 1968, ending the unofficial use of the light blue beret.[11]

Elsewhere during the Vietnam War, although not an authorized uniform item, some local security police commanders approved a dark blue beret similar to the SAC Elite Guard beret for their units as a less-conspicuous alternative to the official white Security Police cover for certain specialized personnel. In Thailand during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Military Working Dog handlers assigned to the 6280th SPS at the Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base sported a dark blue beret with no insignia. Other units adopted a beret to distinguish their guards.[11]

In 1975 Brigadier General Thomas Sadler was appointed Air Force Chief of Security Police with the task of bringing the Security Police career field into the mainstream of the Air Force. One tool he employed was recognition of members of a distinctive portion of the force, with the beret proposed as a uniform change. Significant opposition to the beret from senior colonels and Major Command (MAJCOM) Chiefs was gradually overcome by the popularity of the concept with personnel. The uniform board approved the proposal, and the beret was officially worn worldwide starting in February 1976.[11][12]

The 1976 beret was worn with the MAJCOM crest of the appropriate major command to which the unit was assigned. It continued in this manner for 20 years until the forming of the Security Forces. In March 1997, the 82nd CSPW was reactivated and redesignated the 820th Security Forces Group. The heraldry of the 820th SFG then replaced the individual MAJCOM emblems as beret insignia.[11][13] Enlisted personnel wear the dark blue SF beret which bears the fabric SF "Flash" depicting a falcon over an airfield with the SF motto Defensor Fortis underneath. An officers "Flash" is similar in appearance but replaces the embroidered falcon and airfield with either metal "pin on" or embroidered rank.


Before the issue of the Security Forces Badge, Air Force Military Police and Air Police wore brassards. The brassard was a symbol of legal authority which identified the wearer as a Military Policeman. Despite the history behind the Military Police brassard, many Air Police of the time felt[citation needed] that it was a poor insignia of authority. The brassard was prone to wrinkle extensively during the course of duty and often slipped down the arm. As a result, Air Police leadership requested a shield to replace the brassard. To this day Air Force Security Forces still issues/utilizes the brassard at many deployed locations. In addition, some non-deployed bases issue brassards to specialty units such as Town Patrol and Customs.

Security Forces Training

Weapons Training

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All Security Forces members are required to maintain qualifications on the M-4 Carbine and M-9 pistol. New Security Forces trainees receive training on the M-4 Carbine, M-9 pistol, M-203 grenade launcher, the M-249 Light Machine Gun and the M-240B machine gun.[citation needed] Additionally, personnel may receive training on the M-2 heavy machine gun, MK-19 automatic grenade launcher, AT4, M24 sniper rifle, M-107 Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle or M870 shotgun. Security Forces may receive training on "less than lethal" weapons to include the ASP Expandable Baton, Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) and TASER.

Weapons previously utilized by Security Forces/Police include the M16 Rifle, M29 81mm mortar, M67 recoilless rifle, M72 LAW, M1 Carbine or M2 Carbine (1947–1972), M-60 (1965–1998), S&W Model 15 .38 caliber pistol (1960–1990), XM148 (1966–1991 M79 grenade launcher and ,M-203(1969–present). In the late 1970's and 1980's, the USAF Security Police Academy instructor cadre provided the only deployable Air Force heavy weapons unit under the Security Police Elements for Contingencies (SPECS) program. Captain Mike DeCapua was the first Heavy Weapons unit commander at the Academy. Weapons included M-2 machine guns, 81 mm mortars and fire direction center, and 90 mm recoilless rifles.

Specialty Training

Phoenix Raven

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Phoenix Raven is a program of the United States Air Force's Air Mobility Command. Founded in 1997, it consists of teams of two to six Security Forces personnel who provide security for aircraft outside the United States where airfield security is unknown or additional security is needed/requested. Despite the Phoenix Raven program being established by AMC other Air Force major commands, including Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Combat Command, Air Education and Training Command, Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Air Forces in Europe have sent security force members to the Phoenix Raven course.

The Phoenix Raven course is conducted by the United States Air Force Expeditionary Center at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. The two-week course covers such subjects as cross-cultural awareness, legal considerations, embassy operations, airfield survey techniques, IED awareness, aircraft searches, and unarmed self-defense techniques. Students are exposed to more than 70 use of force scenarios where stress is simulated through the use of role players. Training includes instruction and realistic practical exercises in "verbal judo," weapons retention, baton training, and advanced firearms training. As a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks Phoenix Raven candidates are taught anti-hijacking techniques in cooperation with the Federal Air Marshal program.

The first Ravens graduated AMWC in February 1997. Since then, more than 2,000 Air Force security forces have graduated from the Phoenix Raven Course. Graduates from the course also include members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Federal Air Marshal Service. Upon graduation, Air Force Ravens are issued a lifetime numeric identifier for completing the course. In addition, the identifier eases manpower and operational tracking requirements within AMC.

Lateral Training

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Security Forces may "Laterally Train" into two AFSC shreds, which are Military Working Dog Handler (MWD/K-9) and Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM). Since these are laterally trained career fields, completion of the Security Forces Academy is mandatory prior to applying for these positions. It may take up to five years to become eligible to apply for lateral training into these AFSC shreds. Once an application is submitted there is no guarantee the applicant will be accepted. This is based on the applicant's duty performance history, Air Force manning requirements and other "needs of the Air Force." These schools are taught at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

Military Working Dog Handler

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A Security Forces dog handler attached to the Army's 3rd Special Forces Group in Afghanistan.

Military Working Dog Handlers (MWD), AFSC 3P0X1A, are units which are highly trained teams consisting of a SF handler plus a specially selected/trained drug or explosive detector dog. They provide the Air Force with the capability to enforce military laws and regulations, suppress the use of illegal narcotics, detect explosives and protect air bases around the world during peacetime, wartime and in support of operations other than war. The MWD's primary mission is to deter, detect and detain intruders in areas surrounding Air Force resources. The majority of all assigned working dogs are Belgian Malinois, a variety of the Belgian Shepherd Dog. MWDs provide a tremendous psychological deterrent to would be violators as they are trained to pursue, attack and hold (bite and hold) a suspect with or without commands from the handler.

MWD Handler training is conducted at the DoD Dog Center, Medina Annex, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Until its inactivation in 1991 at Clark Air Base, Republic of the Philippines, the 3rd Security Police Group contained largest K-9 section in the Air Force. Clark AB was the largest USAF installation outside of the United States.

Combat Arms Training and Maintenance

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Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM), AFSC 3P0X1B, are personnel who conduct marksmanship training to prepare all Air Force personnel for home station and deployment operations. Combat Arms specialists lead, manage, supervise and implement small arms weapons training programs. Their duties include operating firing ranges and associated facilities, enforcing range safety, inspecting/repairing weaponry, performing preventative maintenance, developing/utilizing training aides and determining training/maintenance resource requirements. Combat Arms personnel also provide training in safeguarding weapons, ammunition and equipment; instructing small arms weapons qualification training and providing guidance on weapons placement to SF and other ground defense force commanders.

Recent Events

Changes to Deployment Length and Training

The Air Force currently uses the Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) concept to deliver versatile and responsive total force air and space power to meet the warfighter's global security requirement. The AEF concept is the Air Force's vision for the 21st century to organize, train, equip and deploy forces for contingency operations while remaining ready to meet national crises. The following events outline the USAF SF transition from 90 day to 179+ and 365 day deployments.

On August 4, 1998, Air Force Chief of Staff General Michael Ryan and Acting Secretary of the Air Force F. Whitten Peters announced the Air Force would divide its forces into a number of nearly equally capable AEFs. Those AEFs would provide combat power on a rotating basis to combatant commanders worldwide, leveraging Air Force combat capabilities to better meet the national strategic requirements and joint operational objectives. At this time, deployment lengths were 90 days.

In March 1999, operations in Kosovo slowed the implementation progress and threatened to delay and possibly stop the AEF program all together.

On January 1, 2000, the Air Force enters the 21st century by announcing all AEFs have been organized and implemented.

On September 11, 2001, the AEF concept was put to the test during the Global War on Terrorism with simultaneous deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle. In 2003, during the height of OIF/OEF/ONE, more than 107,000 Airmen were deployed, nearly twice as many as during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Since March 2004, the Air Force has provided airmen to serve combat support roles, despite the stress of working outside their usual duties. As a result, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley has sounded warnings about having airmen filling Army jobs they are not trained to do. Nevertheless, the Air Force steadily increased the number of Airmen serving in combat support roles for its sister services. The Air Force calls such missions “in lieu of” taskings, or ILO for short.[14]

On September 1, 2004, deployment lengths increased to 120 days to meet the rising demands of air and space power worldwide.

Prior to June 2005, Security Forces were tasked with 179+ and 365 day deployments in support of OIF/OEF/ONE.

In January 2006, Brig. Gen. Robert Holmes, Director of Security Forces and Force Protection, stated "We want to make our Airmen more proficient, and to do that, we need to adapt. We're going to change our training, our tactics and our procedures and the Air Force will be better for it." General Holmes calls these transformations a "refocus" on how Security Forces train and fight. General Holmes elaborated, "We're not in the Cold War anymore; we have to alter our mentality and our practices for today's reality. Because of the nature of the threat, our Airmen are fighting the global war on terror on the front lines, and we owe it to them to provide training, equipment and resources to be effective. Essentially, Security Forces will focus on preparing for their warfighting mission at forward locations, as well as security at a fixed installation. Our Airmen are going ‘outside the wire’ to conduct missions and are proving successful in keeping people safe." General Holmes also said one of the transformation goals is bringing security forces back in step with standard Air Force 120-day deployments. General Holmes explained, “Right now our folks are going out for 179-day rotations. Our Airmen need time to reconstitute and train. So it’s important to get them in line with the rest of the Air Force. We aim to do just that.” Overall, General Holmes said the changes would make Security Forces more effective and relevant to Air Force needs in the face of the current changing nature of warfare.[15]

In November 2007, it was announced that the Air Force was going to triple the number of Security Forces personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan to back-fill Army and Marines Corps mission tasks.[16]

In September 2010, the Air Force announced it was increasing all combat deployments to 179 days beginning in 2011. Lt. Col. Belinda Petersen, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Personnel Center, said the increase in deployment duration is an effort to “improve predictability and stability for airmen and their families.” Peterson added, by revising the policy, airmen affected by the change will also “ideally” get more time at home. The dwell time for those airmen is expected to increase from 16 to 24 months. Despite these “improvements”, Security Forces, civil engineers, contractors and intelligence are among the busiest in the Air Force, with six-month deployments, followed by only six months at home.[17]

Frankfurt International Airport Tragedy

On March 2, 2011, Senior Airman Nicholas J. Alden, 25, of Williamston, South Carolina, assigned to the 48th Security Forces Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England and Airman 1st Class Zachary R. Cuddeback, 21, of Stanardsville, Virginia., assigned to the 86th Vehicle Readiness Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany were shot and killed by 21 year old Kosovo native of Albanian descent named Arif Ukaat at Frankfurt International Airport, Germany.[18] Ukaat's relatives in Kosovo told the Associated Press that he is a devout Muslim and German federal prosecutors said they suspect he was motivated by extremist, Islamist ideology. A U.S. law enforcement official says the shooter shouted "Allahu Akbar", or "God is Great" in Arabic, as he opened fire. The Air Force says most of the airmen attacked were part of a Security Forces team passing through Germany, on their way to a deployment in Afghanistan. In addition to the two dead, two other airmen were wounded.[19] President Obama stated the incident is a “stark reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our men and women are making all around the world to keep us safe and the dangers that they face all around the globe.”[20]

Operation Iraqi Freedom Casualties

1st Lt Joseph Helton was killed when an IED struck his Humvee in the Al Rashid district of Baghdad on September 8, 2009.[21]

As of May 30, 2011, 12 Air Force Security Forces members have died while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. These personnel total 22% of all Air Force casualties during OIF. Of those fatalities, seven were the result of hostile action such as small arms fire and Improvised Explosive Devices. The remaining five were the result of non-hostile action such as vehicle accidents, suicide, and medical problems.[22]

Notable Members

See also

Other countries


  1. Latin phrase Literally, "Protector of the Powerful", but per Pinckney 148, intended as "Defender of the Force".
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Fox, Roger P. (1979). Air Base Ground Defense in the Republic of Vietnam 1961-1973. Washington D.C.: Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force. p. 278. ISBN 141022256X. 
  4. News Photos. Retrieved August 14, 2011
  5. "820th factsheet". 
  6. Pinckney, Kali, Defensor Fortis: A Brief History of USAF Security And Those Dedicated Few Who Defend The Air Force At The Ground Level, Universal Publishers Press, ISBN 1581125542, ISBN 978-1581125542 (2003), pp. 37-38
  7. Balcer, Ray (Col.), HQ SAC Elite Guard (April 2005)
  8. Farewell To General LeMay Dinner, 11 June 1957
  9. Balcer, Ray (Col.), HQ SAC Elite Guard April, 2005
  10. World's Smartest-Looking Airmen Celebrate A Birthday, Omaha Evening World-Herald, 1 May 1962, p. 16: On 1 May 1962, the Evening World-Herald covered the fifth-year anniversary celebration at Offutt AFB of the founding of the SAC Elite Guard in 1957, complete with a photo of the ceremony clearly showing the Elite Guardsmen in their signature blue wool berets and bone-handled .38 revolvers.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 "History of the Security Police Beret". Safeside Association. Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  12. Pinckney 2009, p. 102
  13. Pinckney 2009, p. 147
  14. "AF to Triple Number of Airmen in Iraq".,15240,156225,00.html. Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  15. "Security Forces Undergoing Transformation". Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  16. Scott Schonauer. "Air Force to triple number of airmen helping Army, Marines in Iraq - News". Stripes. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  17. Jennifer H. Svan. "Air Force changes deployment lengths for some 42,000 airmen - News". Stripes. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  18. "Air Force officials identify Frankfurt Airport shooting deaths". Archived from the original on 2012-07-21. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  19. "Deaths Of 2 U.S. Airmen Investigated In Germany". NPR. 2011-03-03. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  20. "U.S. Airforce Troops Shot And Killed In Germany, Obama Upset". AM 1450 KMMS – Bozeman's News Talk Leader. Retrieved 2011-05-20. 
  22. "Iraq Coalition Casualties: Military Fatalities". Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  • Pinckney, Kali (2009). Defensor Fortis:The History of the Air Force Military Police, Air Police, Security Police, and the Security Forces. Lexington, Kentucky: PinckTank Publishing. ISBN 0-615-32829-6. 


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