Day in the Life: Nellis security forces patrolmen

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jacob R. McCarthy
  • Nellis AFB Public Affairs
There's nothing more irritating when you're on your way to drop off your 2-year-old at the CDC and you're already 10 minutes late for work when in your rear view mirror, flashing red and blue lights and the wail of a siren brings you to the side of the road.

As "Smokey" lumbers toward your window, your grip on the steering wheel tightens. "Was I speeding? Did I run that stop sign?" You go for your license and registration, then it hits you--you don't have your insurance card on you.

For most of us, exchanging vehicle information through the driver's side window is the alpha and the omega of the relationship shared with a security forces patrolman. Perhaps knowing what it takes to be a security forces patrolman might bridge that gap of misunderstanding. After all, they're Airmen too.

They wake up, shower, eat breakfast (if they're lucky), and drive to work. After finding a spot in an already sardined parking lot by 5 a.m., most patrolmen don their daily gear right out of their trunk. Web belt, check. Flashlight, check. Handcuffs, check. Second-Chance bulletproof vest, double-check!

They make their way into a small armory in an isolated corner of the base to get their weapons issued. A clearing officer ensures this is done safely before patrolmen gather and meet for guard mount.

Guard mount is a "from-day-one" procedure for most security forces Airmen. Every shift, patrolmen meet with their flight commander to receive orders, shift change information and any other news of the day. The flight commander also takes this time to give Airmen a good once-over to make sure everyone is physically and mentally prepared to handle a day out on patrol.

When there are 18 to 21-year-olds carrying weapons and guarding multi-million dollar aircraft, they have to be stringent and vigilant at all times, said Master Sgt. Carlos Guevara, 99th Security Forces Squadron, alpha flight commander.

At least once a week, the flight commander also conducts an open ranks inspection. This inspection helps to maintain a sense of good order and discipline within the flight, explained Sergeant Guevara.

The ritual continues when the night shift returns for shift change. Airmen check vehicles, trade notes and flight commanders exchange happenings at every shift change. This helps with mission continuity, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

From the armory, the flight is split into multiple patrols. A handful of Airmen form teams and load up in a vehicle to head out to their respective patrol area.

Patrols driving the recognizable police cruisers are called law enforcement patrols. These patrols are responsible for main base security and safety. Speeders and stop sign runners beware.

"We're not always out there writing tickets," explains Staff Sgt. Elmer Dabu, 99th SFS, assistant flight chief. "We're here to create a safe environment for everyone on base."

From reminding motorcyclists to wear the proper protective equipment while riding on base, to enforcing intersection etiquette, it's all in a day's work for these Airmen.

Patrols protecting the flightline are called security response teams. They manage security for both east and west sides of the flightline.

Patrolling forces must constantly be aware of their surroundings and capable of responding to any situation quickly, said Staff Sgt. Robert Eichenhorst, 99th SFS patrolman. Backup Augmentation Forces, also known as BAFs, are comprised of Airmen on patrol who can provide rapid response anywhere on the installation.

The mission of protecting a base as large as Nellis poses significant challenges to both the patrolmen and the flight commander.

"There are a lot of different facets to consider," explains Sergeant Eichenhorst. "Everything from illegal immigrants trying to access the base, to people in possession of drugs, to speeders who jeopardize other people's safety, no day is the same."

The team collectively relies on each other to maintain communication and mission effectiveness.

One way this is done is through post briefs, where Airmen report the status of their post and any changes. Post briefs allow the flight commander to receive a hands-on update on current operations and keeps patrolmen sharp and vigilant.

The flight commander also takes care of the flight by monitoring the morale and welfare of the Airmen. Flight commanders often relieve Airmen during lunch or bring lunch out to them while on shift. A flexible schedule is another tool at the flight commander's disposal to keep Airmen in good spirits.

"Because of the Panama schedule, I have enough people on flight where I can relieve some so they can do physical training, even while they're working," said Sergeant Guevara. Airmen are allowed to go back to the law enforcement desk to take a break or study, Sergeant Guevara continued.

The Panama schedule, a rotation of three-on, two-off, two-on workdays, frees up time for Airmen, breaking up the long days into manageable shifts. "Instead of working six days in a row where you'd stay past eight hours anyway, it's better to work the longer hours in a day and be here fewer days out of the week," said Staff Sgt. Shannon Shubik, 99th SFS administrative specialist.

As the shift draws to a close, just as it started, patrols begin to make their way to the armory to bring on the next shift. And just as before, Airmen exchange vehicles, brief and debrief the on-coming shift and return their weapons.

This 24/7/365 operation is successful because of the unwavering dedication to duty of these Airmen. So the next time you find yourself late to work, think twice about running that stop sign. Yield to the pedestrian in the crosswalk. The job of securing a base with 14,000 people, billions of dollars worth of equipment, facilities and your family is a hard one. Do your part to help the Airmen who take on this huge responsibility.