Defensor Fortis: A look into the Air Force’s largest career field

SAN ANTONIO – Every job in the United States Air Force has a critical mission, but the responsibility of defending and protecting everything and everyone inside an Air Force installation lies on Security Forces.

“What we always tell the airmen is that nobody else on base can do their job without us…all the way down to the gate. If they can’t check an ID properly and ensure base security, then my individuals working at the medical facility cannot do their job. My individuals working at Knopf cannot do their job without us, so we are the first base support,” Bradley Rayburn, TSgt, USAF said.

A military police’s foundation is established at JBSA-Lackland. They learn everything from career field history to weapons training.

“The journey is about 65 days long. It starts with them arriving out of BMT out of here at Lackland Air Force base,” said Rayburn.

The courses gradually intensify as the weeks go on. They take their training from an interactive environment inside a classroom to out-in-the-field, where they simulate real-world scenarios.

“When they’re out here, we give them a little bit of stress inoculation and kind of get their heart rate going, their adrenaline pumping kind of simulated to what they’re going to experience in a real-life scenario. And we get them in the houses with those real-time reflexive responses so they can react accordingly,” said Steven Turco, TSgt, USAF.

But the training doesn’t end at Lackland. Students go on to an expeditionary component at camp Bullis, north of San Antonio.

“Move into their field training up at Camp Bullis, just north of San Antonio. At that point, they’ll do three weeks up there doing dismounted patrols, some integrated explosive device, or excuse me, improvised explosive device detection. Um, after that point, they’ll come back down here to Lackland and we will finish up their training,” said Rayburn.

Upon returning, they’ll take on combatives — a final and critical component to their training led by retired Senior Sergeant Richard Olivares, who served 26-years and nine days on active duty. His new passion is training the young defenders.

“What we do is we teach these students to use the minimal amount of force as possible, obviously up to and including lethal force, which includes a firearm. So, what they’re learning right now is expandable baton, which is a less lethal or non-lethal weapons. So, it is a tool that gives our defenders an advantage over just being empty-handed or bare hands in order to employ force to an effect in apprehension,” said Olivares, an instructor.

Whether security force specialists are assigned to guard the world’s most powerful weapons, or stand watch at a base gate, they’ll leave their technical school much tougher…mentally and physically.

It’s a big responsibility because you’re going into something that has a lot of expectations. Everyone in the Air Force is pretty much looking at you to be the best in your job. And so, it makes people like me and other people nervous. But I think at the end of the day, if you come to take training and you’re motivated and you learn these skills, then you’ll be all right,” said Ethan Ivey, Airman Basic, USAF.

There are over 300,000 airmen in the United States Air Force and close to 40,000 of those are security forces.

The school houses at Lackland graduate 5,400 airmen each year.

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