Staff Sgt. Patrick Harris admits that even after his third tour of duty in Iraq, he still experiences the “pucker effect,” the heightened sense of vigilance military personnel feel when they return home from deployment. Though he is now safely back at the Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Washington, where he helps to protect the base as a member of the U.S. Air Force’s 11th Security Forces Group (SFG), he says, “I still find myself walking around my development constantly looking up, looking at windows, looking at rooftops.”
When I met him at Andrews during a day Security Management spent learning about the various security responsibilities of the 11th SFG, Harris had only been back four days. In Iraq he was posted to Joint Base Balad, inside the Sunni Triangle, which had been the historic power center of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. Harris and his unit at Balad routinely went “outside the wire” to interact with the surrounding population and patrol for hostiles that could threaten the base, nicknamed “Mortaritaville” for the frequency of mortar attacks it received in the early days of the occupation. Part infantryman, part policeman, and part security guard, Harris says his mission during his tour there could be summarized simply: do everything in his power to defend his installation from attack. Though he was ultimately tested half a world away, it was here at Andrews that Harris says he learned the necessary skills to succeed and survive “in theater.”
Security Management was invited by ASIS International member Joseph Rector, CPP, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and deputy chief of the 11th SFG, to learn about the unit, the largest security force in the Air Force. But it is not for size alone that the 750-person SFG is renowned. The unit is considered a leader within its branch of the military, according to Rector, because of how it trains and how the group implements security at the base.
(To keep reading "This Base is Covered," the cover story of the January issue of Security Management, please click here.)
♦ Photo of President Obama leaving Air Force One by WI Guard Pics/Flickr