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Defenders of freedom.

Remarks at the Security Forces Symposium, Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, April 12, 2006

Thank you for asking me to be here with you all tonight as we pause to honor the dedication and sacrifice of all our Security Forces and to recognize several individuals and units for their outstanding contributions this past year.

In my four years serving as Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, I've had the opportunity to speak at hundreds of venues and to tens of thousands of people. And I can honestly tell you that I have never felt safer than I do here tonight. I know the U S. Air Force Security Forces have my back.

Each of you have not only volunteered to serve our nation and protect the freedoms we hold so dear, you have taken your commitment further and stepped up to be on the front lines of defense. You've trained incredibly hard to be at the top of your game and to be ready to defeat terrorism here at home and abroad. Each of you should take great pride in your accomplishments.

Your commitment to protect and defend our people and resources, and enforce military law provides every Airman the fundamental element they need to be able to accomplish our Air Force mission - to fly, fight and win. I thank you for bringing that level of security and commitment to our bases and our Airmen.

Since the early years of Air Police, to the 1966 change to Security Police, and to your current title of Security Forces, your protection mission has continued to evolve.

As a force we've witnessed the world change in almost unimaginable ways in our nearly six decades. We fought wars in Southeast Asia--Korea and Vietnam, the Balkans - as well as in Southwest Asia--the Persian Gulf. We witnessed the end of a decades-long Cold War and the rise of a Global War on Terrorism.

Many of you, as did I, spent a part your career fighting the Cold War. While we remained on alert around the world, we didn't fight significant battles. Our vigilance is what kept our adversaries at bay and the American Public safe and secure.

While the lack of engagements presented a danger of falling into complacency, our leadership ensured this did not happen--your leadership, and your dedication, ensured security remained a priority.

From manning Ground Launched Cruise Missiles in Europe to standing sentry on our alert aircraft areas, your mission was vital. In addition, you honed individual and team skills through demanding exercises and competitions. Peacekeeper Challenge, Giant Sword, Olympic Arena and Full Eagle were just a few of the opportunities you had to excel in the security arena.

Maintaining readiness would prove incredibly valuable as the Cold War ended and new threats and adversaries emerged. Worse yet, many threats in the post-Cold War era maintain a shadowy veil, making your role more important than ever.

A significant date in history, June 25, 1996, changed the way our Air Force viewed force protection. The bombing of Khobar Towers killed 19 of our fellow Airmen and injured hundreds more. While security guards did spot the terrorist activity, there wasn't enough time to complete evacuations before the explosion. The vigilance of one young Security Forces NCO was credited with saving many Airmen's lives.

Unfortunately, five years later terrorist struck deep in the heart of our homeland. As we all watched civilian airlines turned into lethal weapons we knew two things--our country would never be the same and the terrorists would pay for these vicious acts.

For most of you the clays after Sept. 11, 2001 are probably a blur. Force protection was our first priority. We could not know what other attacks were planned--12-hour shifts, which we all know for you is more like 14, became normal workdays. Increased checkpoints and patrols were the standard, as force protection levels remained elevated. We will never know how many attacks may have been averted due to our increased vigilance--your vigilance and your readiness.

You should be proud of the role you played then, and continue to play today in keeping our people and resources safe and secure. You should also be proud of the team effort--the Total Force effort that has emerged.

Our initial augmentation of Security Forces by active-duty Airmen within the wing and bases units served two purposes. In addition to providing extra manpower, we gained a cadre of personnel serving in diverse specialties who now have a better understanding of the force protection mission.

We reaped the same benefits when Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel blended into our active-duty units. We learned more about each other and the components of our Air Force The support from Army Military Police units furthered our cooperation and understanding of our sister service. Today, many installations share the Security mission with civilian contract employees. Force protection is truly a Total Team effort--as it should be.

As you know, a basic purpose of this symposium is to chart a course to transform your role as Security Forces members and to expand the players on the force protection team to include every Airman. We can no longer simply react to threats to our installations; we must be proactive and stop the terrorists in their tracks. We have to anticipate what an unpredictable enemy will do today, and an unknown enemy may do tomorrow.

Our entire Air Force is transforming to better meet the demand of today's Global War on Terror and to ensure we are ready to fight tomorrow's wars. This is no easy task, but it's one we must complete effectively and efficiently.

You've probably heard of Smart Ops 21. This program is designed to have every Airman take a hard look at how and why we do things and what can be done better. Our end goal is a stronger, smarter, and more efficient force.

As Security Forces you are the largest career field in our Air Force. With nearly 30,000 active, Guard, Reserve and civilians operating around the globe. Your operations tempo is 200 percent greater than our AEF Center's designed deployment rates. It's an understatement to say you are stretched thin, but at the same time you are doing an incredible job.

Today, close to 4,000 Security Forces Airmen are deployed with more than 1,600 supporting "In Lieu Of" tasking for our sister services. We have, for example, 1,000 Airmen working detainee operations, certainly not a traditional mission. But, the Global War on Terror is not a traditional war with a visible defined enemy. Winning this war will take every service bringing their best capabilities to the fight.

For Security Forces, you have proven yourself time and time again. Operation Desert Safeside was a historic mission to reduce the number of attacks launched against Balad Air Base (Iraq). During the aggressive 60-day combat operation, Security Forces men and women of Task Force 1041 conducted more than 500 combat missions including raids, ambushes and sniper operations

You took the fight to the enemy and achieve unprecedented success. Despite enduring numerous firelights, improvised explosive devises and indirect-fire attacks, the task force captured 17 high-value targets, eight major weapons caches and 98 insurgents. These terrorists had operated with virtual freedom to attack at will prior to Operation Desert Safeside. You ended their free reign of terror.

While there were no casualties during this operation, the Global War on Terror has taken a toll. Twenty-one Airmen have been killed and more than 230 injured. We've lost three Security Forces Airmen and 27 more have been wounded in the past 12 months alone. That represents nearly 40 percent of the Air Force members wounded this past year.

Indeed, our service is never without risk, but we can take comfort in knowing these brave men and women gave their all to preserve the fundamental freedoms America represents.

With hope and optimism, we are now seeing the seeds of democracy taking root in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and in other nations around the world. Our Air Force is continuing to play a pivotal role in making these remarkable changes possible.

I'm incredibly proud to serve with each of you. You are truly great Americans. The battles we fight today will ensure the freedom of generations to come.

Looking around this room I see the strength, dedication and professionalism that not only make me feel safer, but also se secures the blessings of liberty for our Air Force and our great Nation. Thank you for steadfastly protecting our people and resources and tirelessly defending freedom.
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Title Annotation:Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Gerald R. Murray
Author:Murray, Gerald R.
Publication:Air Force Speeches
Article Type:Speech
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 12, 2006
Words:1431
Previous Article:Our challenge: transforming and modernizing the Air Force.
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