News Search

193rd Security Forces Squadron: Force to be reckoned with

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Claire Behney
  • 193rd Special Operations Wing
You've seen them checking credentials at the gate, but it's the missions beyond that point that has been keeping things more interesting.

Just ask Lt. Col. Kraig Artz, commander of the Security Forces Squadron, 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pa., who can tell you first hand why his specially trained warriors have become the go-to squadron for worldwide security missions.

Post Sept. 11, the 193rd SFS has had to transform from a strictly base defense focus to a more forward-deployed infantry mindset, said Artz.

With this new paradigm the SFS has taken into numerous deployments and has found themselves busy on several missions involving classified locations, the guarding of high value targets and modern training conducive to the current theater demands.

Best of the best

The Navy has its SEALS, the Army has its rangers, the Marine Corps has its snipers, but the Air Force has the raven.

A "raven" is considered to be one of the best within the Security Forces field and the 193rd SFS has six Airmen that are qualified "ravens."

Being a "raven" means that an Airman has completed the Phoenix Raven program which consists of security forces personnel specially trained to provide security for Air Mobility Command aircraft traveling into airfields with unknown security. This program involves a rigorous two-week training course.

Two of the Wing's six "ravens" have completed five classified missions, but the squadron hasn't stopped there.

The Air Force Special Operations Command's Deployed Aircraft Ground Response Element course is similar to the Phoenix Raven program, but steps it up to the next level. This course involves an intense 11-week training program that focuses on techniques for use in high threat areas.

Three Airmen of the 193rd SFS have completed the DAGRE course, becoming the first and only members from the Air National Guard on this highly trained team.

"One member was sent on a DAGRE mission, which resulted in the successful rescue of three American citizens from a hostile armed force," said Master Sgt. Louis Lusk, SFS squad leader.

The 193rd SFS has also been tasked with keeping an Airman on active duty status at Hurlburt Field, Fla., with Air Force Special Operations Command. This Airman works as the DAGRE liaison for AFSOC and coordinates the use of all Air National Guard DAGRE members for missions, Lusk said.

Being part of history

From August 2008 to March 2009, 11 Airmen of the SFS were deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. They served as the command element for the 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron, defending the largest military air hub.

"There were more than 250 active duty and reserve component security forces, to include eight military working canine teams and a tactical security element that went outside the wire on a daily basis," said Artz, who commanded this entire unit and reported it was the highlight of his career.

Along with going outside the wire, the tactical security element performed combat operations that ultimately lead to the capture of 53 enemy insurgents and 13 weapons caches, Lusk said.

The squadron was also tasked with leading security during the historical presidential visit by former President George W. Bush. They worked with the Army, Secret Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to develop a security plan for Air Force One.

"President Bush's head of security was so comfortable with our security that the plan to move the aircraft to a different location was changed and AF1 remained at our location for the duration of his visit," said Artz. "It was an extreme risk to leave a high value target stationary in a war zone."

Another major task during this deployment was securing 25 Iraqi ex-patriots.
This group of men, women and children came from an area in southern Iraq where they turned in all insurgents residing in the area. The ex-patriots were then moved to Sather Air Base where they were placed in a separate compound, given clothing, shelter and food, and had around-the-clock security provided to them by the members of the 193rd SFS. Toys and games were also provided for the children and SFS Airmen spent their off time participating in games of soccer and football with the children, said Lusk.

"They put themselves in great danger by turning in the insurgents and some family members were lost prior to them being moved to Sather," said Lusk. "It was a great experience for the Security Forces to bond with and protect these people."

Classified location, classified organization

While a lot of the work the SFS does for the Wing is highly visible, some of their assignments remain classified.

Three Airmen were deployed to a classified location in Iraq to assist commanders of classified units as they ran their combat missions. They served as security managers and force protection advisors. This mission ensured a safe defense and successful running of the Joint Operations Control Center.

This wasn't the first time the 193rd SFS worked for this organization. After seeing the work performance of the squadron on a previous mission, this organization asked for the 193rd by name, Lusk said.

A total of 22 Airmen were deployed on three separate deployments to classified locations in Iraq to perform compound defense for a classified organization, Lusk said. This allowed the organization to continue their combat operations, while the SFS upheld a defensive position to safeguard the personnel and property of this unit.

Wealth of knowledge

The 193rd SFS Airmen has been requested on many occasions and each time the squadron has taken the opportunity by storm.

An Airman of the SFS was requested, by name, to report to Langley Air Force Base, Va., to assist the Air Reserve Component Force Protection Volunteer Program, said Lusk. He performed duties as the flight chief where he supervised a flight of 30 active duty Airmen ensuring protection of the base. He was then requested to assist with their Combat Arms Training and Maintenance section, which trains and qualifies all Air Force Airmen on fire arms and completes all weapons maintenance on the weapons systems.

Additionally, two 193rd Airmen were deployed to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to assist the National Guard Bureau, said Lusk. During their deployment at the NGB, they were requested to report to Fort Bliss, Texas, to assist their unit in training and qualifying numerous military personnel on fire arms prior to their deployment.

Two other 193rd SF Airmen were requested to deploy to Camp Gruber, Okla., to work with the Department of Energy and train their personnel on weapons use and tactics to improve their job performance.

Moreover, Charlestown Air Force Base, N.C., was the location six Airmen reported to for detainee operations missions training. While in training, they learned how to properly handle, restrain and move detainees. Following the training they boarded an aircraft and for the next 12 days lived on the aircraft while transporting detainees to various locations within the United States.

Receiving honors

Throughout the last year, the SFS Airmen have been recognized for their efforts with numerous awards. Four Airmen were awarded the Meritorious Service Medal, 14 the Joint Services Commendation Medal, 10 the Joint Service Achievement Medal, eight the Air Force Commendation Medal, six the Air Force Achievement Medal, one the Pennsylvania Distinguished Service Medal, five the Pennsylvania Meritorious Service Medal, and 45 the Pennsylvania Commendation Medal. Along with these honors, several Air Force Expeditionary Service Medals with gold borders, Air Force Short Tour, Iraqi Campaign Medals and Armed Forces Expedition Medals were awarded.

Missions accomplished, morale high

"We are always on the road with many deployments being one right after another and I'm very proud of the fact that we always have more volunteers than positions required," said Artz.

Throughout these deployments the various missions at home continued to be accomplished. The SFS sustained base security around-the-clock and maintain the training schedule, which includes qualifying Wing personnel on assigned weapons for any upcoming deployments, along with anything else that they were tasked with on the home front.

"They're such a fantastic squadron," said Artz. "Their ever present, can-do attitude and willingness to accomplish any task is absolutely contagious; this simply is an excellent group of people."