MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Editor's note: The mention of the Safeside association does not constitute endorsement or affiliation by Moody Air Force Base or the U.S. Air Force.)
The 820th Base Defense Group hosted the biennial Safeside Reunion, November 6-8, at Moody Air Force Base.
Vietnam and Desert Storm veterans came together to bond with the new generation of Safeside members. The three-day event consisted of a memorial service for fallen Safeside members, a current capabilities demonstration and a golf tournament.
“Even though we’re worlds apart by age, they face the same kind of problems we faced in Vietnam, whether it be weapons, equipment, danger or excitement,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Jerry Nelson, president of the Safeside association. “When you get all these young (Airmen) together, the 820th BDG forms that comradery and enthusiasm that doesn’t exist anywhere else. This is a special unit and we share a special thing.”
Operation Safeside was established in 1966 and was the Air Force’s first concept of providing outside-the-wire security for Air Force bases.
“We come to Moody because the legacy of what we did at operation Safeside is carried on by the 820th BDG,” Nelson said. “So it’s important that they hear our history and we learn about what they’re doing and how they’ll carry it on in their history. They lead what we started and continue to carry it forward.”
While the 820th consists of younger defenders, fighting a different fight, Airmen find many similarities between the past and present.
“Our newest generation of Airmen haven’t really seen conflict (as much) because they’ve been deploying to places that weren’t too combat related,” said Master Sgt. Paul Kalle, 823d Base Defense Squadron logistics and readiness superintendent. “We have these older guys who really saw conflict and when (Airmen) talk to these older gentlemen who’ve been to Vietnam or Desert Storm, it’s an opportunity to (learn) battle tactics with someone who’s been in a situation.”
Unfortunately, many veterans from the Vietnam era may not have received the homecoming military members do today.
“A lot of these guys never got thanked for the things that they did,” said Kalle. “When I first deployed to Iraq, a lot of people didn’t want us there. I was in Italy and they didn’t want anything to do with the war. There were protests and people throwing stuff at us when we came back from the airport and that’s kind of a similar thing to what they had to go through. So it was really cool to have them say ‘thank you’ to us in the same way we say ‘thank you’ to them.”
Looking forward, Kalle is sure he’ll return after his time in-service is done.
“It’s always amazing when you get to be a part of a unit that has this kind of legacy,” Kalle said. “They adopt our guys and build a bond. They want to come here and ensure the future legacy and make sure the young guys understand how important it is to be a part of it.”
Nelson echoed Kalle’s enthusiasm in solidifying the legacy and maintaining the bond Safeside members share.
“What they’re doing today is so vitally important,” said Nelson. “As a young 19 year-old, I never realized that 50 years later I’d be sitting here with the same guys that I fought beside. They may understand that, but they don’t realize how important it’ll be in the future.
“They’re great young men and women and I’m amazed at what they’re capable of doing. It’s important that they stay together as a group, even when they get out of the Air Force.”