Security Forces troops charged with new missions while deployed

  • Published
  • By Valerie Mullett
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office

(Editor's Note: This is part one of a two-part series on the recent security forces deployment and the two missions they were assigned to do while in theater.)

Two 13-person squads, one each from the 341st and 741st Missile Security Forces Squadron, and one company grade officer, have returned from a six-month deployment, taken their two weeks of rest and relaxation, and are transitioning back to their home-station duties.

That transition should be easier than the one they had to make to accomplish their missions at Camp Bucca, Iraq.

"These folks were performing duties they are not at all familiar with," said Tech. Sgt. David Ellingson, mobility non-commissioned officer for the 341st Security Support Squadron. "What they were charged to do is totally outside the realm of their duties here."

The security forces members spent 45 days training at Fort Lewis, Wash., prior to departing for Iraq. Once in theater, they were assigned to an Army Battalion to perform their mission.

"Our primary duties were to perform combat patrols outside the wire," said Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Rushford, one of the two squad leaders, and one of only five NCO's who deployed.

While that statement is simple, the duties were anything but.

Within their work cycles, he and the other squad leader, Tech. Sgt. Michael Grey, described four "typical" days for their teams. Sergeant Rushford's squad worked a 12-hour day shift and Sergeant Grey's squad worked a 12-hour swing shift, both shifts overlapped for a period of time.

"Day one we would perform route recons," Sergeant Rushford said. "What that means is we spent the day doing nothing but sweeping a particular area along supply routes for improvised explosive devices."

Supply routes are the paved roadways.

"Day two we would patrol sectors - we scanned a 178 square kilometer area doing nothing but looking for terrorists and insurgents," said Sergeant Grey.

On the third day they provided security at a key interchange check point.

"Basically, the key interchange was located in an area where the main route from Kuwait into Iraq and from Iran into Iraq intersected with the main north/south routes of Iraq," Sergeant Rushford said.

The fourth day was spent performing non-typical duties such as escorting other military units into non-secure areas -- such as the civil engineers to perform repairs on schools or public buildings; performing joint patrols with the British Forces to the south; providing humanitarian escorts for the medical personnel; or searching for unexploded ordnance which the insurgents used to make their IED's.

"We (the swing shift) also had the additional duty of transporting detainees from Camp Bucca to other locations and back," Sergeant Grey said.

Typically, the convoy consisted of eight or nine trucks and seven or eight busses, he said.

This is also the first group of four groups who have deployed from Malmstrom to Camp Bucca to perform these duties, according the Sergeant Ellingson, who is responsible for making sure those tapped to deploy have all the equipment and training they need. He also supports them during their deployment if additional needs arise.

While the squad leaders were responsible for mission coordination, they relied on their Airmen for mission execution.

"This was the first deployment for most of these Airmen," Sergeant Rushford said, "and they all performed brilliantly."

It was both a mental and physical adjustment for the first-timers to make.

"It was hard to see how different they (the Iraqi's) lived, compared to the way we live," said Senior Airman Martina Martin, 741st MSFS camper alert team member here. "Yes, we were there to do a mission to keep everyone safe and secure. But it made me feel very good to be able to help in other ways, too."

She recalled at least twice each cycle being able to participate in humanitarian missions.

"It has taught me to be thankful for what I have and not to take anything for granted because you never know when it could be taken away from you," she said.

The Iraqi villages that surrounded the military installation they called home for six months were one of the many areas Saddam Hussein depleted and torched when he made his surge into Kuwait, Sergeant Grey explained.

"Much of the area is still in a devastated condition," he said.

For Senior Airman Jeremy Hayes, another first-time deployer, remaining spiritually strong was one of his goals prior to departing his post as a 341st MSFS Security Response Team member.

"It was quite insightful, not only carrying out our mission, but to meet these families," Airman Hayes said. "It was really a terrific experience and I would volunteer to go back again."

"I think this deployment has been good for them to interact with the local community members, to see how they live and see how simple things can really be," Sergeant Grey said. "Getting to know these people and help them -- provide them clothing, shoes, water, toys, especially the children - is a good thing for all of us."