BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
U.S. military bases throughout the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility rely on local and other non-U.S. contractors to support base construction and maintenance needs. To ensure the safety and security of base personnel and assets at Bagram Airfield, Airmen assigned to the force protection team escort these contract employees in areas containing essential personnel, equipment or information that must be protected from disclosure to enemy forces.
“The Force Protection Escort Program is a vital link in the base’s security,” said Master Sgt. Marie Lemond, force protection flight chief at the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing. “Individuals who serve as security escorts provide the only security buffer between local nationals and the base population.”
Vigilant escort duty performance means the difference between allowing access to essential information and denying it. FP Airmen provide security for 455th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron construction projects that local nationals support, or other contract employees working in restricted areas. They also provide security for other base agencies as needed.
“The most recent project we worked on was on the airfield where they are building Mobile Aircraft Arresting System maintenance roads to help expedite emergency vehicle response time and limit foreign object debris transported onto the flightline,” Lemond said. “We also adopted the saying ‘leave it better than you found it,’ meaning we also actively try to find areas where we can be helpful when we aren’t escorting.”
FP Airmen have assisted with painting the flightline, replacing razor wire around Jalalabad Airfield’s flightline perimeter, renovating wing buildings and building up defensive fighting positions around the compound.
“We have been able to overhaul the badging and interview process for the local nationals, and with the help of counterintelligence agents, we were able to identify individuals that may be a threat,” said Senior Airman Lillian March, force protection Airman at the 455th AEW. “Overall our goal is to help ensure the safety of all personnel on base.”
The team is unique because FP is not a traditional Air Force specialty; Airmen come from many different career fields and volunteer for FP assignments.
“Our unique diversity is one of our greatest strengths,” Lemond said. “Our team is made up of 14 active duty Airmen from 11 different career fields, which brings us different experience levels and perspectives.”
This difference in perspective adds strength to the squadron and allows them to accomplish the mission efficiently, while giving Airmen a unique deployed experience outside their normal duties.
“I can’t even put into words the sense of pride I feel for the Airmen I get to work with,” Lemond said. “It’s the people that can make or break a deployment. I can honestly say this has been a once in a life time experience, and it’s because of the team.”