Air Force Security Forces: A year in review highpoints

By, Major General Thomas Sherman, Mr. Timothy Gerald, Chief Master Sergeant Donald Gallagher
Air Force Security Forces

Defender Family,

2023 was a fast-paced year for our Defender Family. Strategic competition was the central context for the future of air and space power; the Department of the Air Force is doing more than ever  to optimize for the strategic environment we face with a unique focus on deterring aggression against the United States, our allies and partners, and our interests. The drumbeat of change, brought on by our pacing competitor, across the strategic environment is allowing the threat to advance more dynamically than ever. This complex and evolving environment requires a different approach to guarantee our national security and livelihood. Therefore, we must change the way we think, fight, and modernize key capabilities to maintain our effective edge. We recognize the risk if we do not adjust course to meet our future obligations for our department and joint force to protect, defend, and project air power around the world. Strategic competition was present in 2023 and it will be the context for 2024 air and space power.

Defenders answered the call in 2023, culminating in groundbreaking events such as Defender Flag and a refocused Defender Challenge. The hard work across the SF enterprise delivered results both in our base defense operations and in our ability to shape and influence the work being done for the Agile Combat Employment scheme of maneuver. These events helped to demonstrate that with the right mindset and focus, SF is a combat-capable and lethal expeditionary force relevant for 2024 and beyond.

Below are a few areas that show the elements we are prioritizing for success:

  • Strategy: As Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen David Allvin said, “We face a security environment, which grows more complex by the day, and a pacing competitor, which continues to advance at an alarming rate. The attributes of the changing character of war are ones well suited for our service.” As a result, we are in final coordination on foundational strategy document. It was circulated amongst Air Staff strategic thinkers, MAJCOM functional specialists, and National Defense University strategy experts. Additionally, great minds within our Defender Family provided key input and insight.  

We also dedicated substantial focus at the Air Staff and MAJCOM level to help scope the Air Force Force Generation model that seeks to present forces to the Joint Force Commanders in a sustainable and capability-driven model. Finally, the career field leaders have been involved in the Optimizing for Great Power Competition Strategic Effort, specifically in Line of Effort 5: Support, where the Director of Security Forces is a Co-chair, working to lead the team to address what the future of Combat Support, Combat Service Support and Infrastructure enterprises will look like. 

  • Basic Defender Course: The Basic Defender Course kicked off on Oct. 6, and is the final piece of revamping the career field’s formal training courses. It is the biggest overhaul of the Security Forces Apprentice Course in nearly 20 years.

The course shifted from training Defenders on the basic skills of Base defense, Law and Order Operations, Installation Access, Airfield, and Resource Protection, to a sole focus on Base defense. This renewed focus on Base defense aligns with our new Career Field Education and Training Plan, which published on July 3, and focuses on six core competencies: Shoot, Move, Communicate, Mounted and Dismounted Operations, and Perimeter Defense. These six core competencies cover all aspects of all Defender missions, from launch facility strikes in the nuclear enterprise to Raven missions in austere environments. Ultimately, allowing our Defenders to concentrate on Base defense will enable our success in both home station and deployed environments. The first Defenders to complete the course graduated in January as three-levels and now will report to their new wings or deltas. Graduates will have a strong base defense mindset and possess the individual skills necessary to perform Shoot, Move, Communicate, Mounted and Dismounted Operations, and Perimeter Defense.  

In addition to the focused training mindset, these new Defenders will arrive to installations with a proficiency in basic rifle and pistol marksmanship and familiarization on squad automatic weapons.  This new course increased the number of rounds fired by each defender from 274 to 1,200 and incorporates three phases of firing throughout the 65 days of training.

As they progress throughout their career, these Defenders will eventually master the six core competencies from a flight or large team mindset. Graduates of the Basic Defender Course are well-equipped to apply necessary skills and defend our Air and Space Bases across the globe.

Later in their careers, graduates of the refreshed Combat Leaders Course will be more postured to lead and direct defense missions.

  • Technology Modernization: Some Air Force Justice Information System (AFJIS) system improvements this past year, which impacted Defenders and overall mission enablement include: Establishing an interface with DEERS, greatly improving overall data quality, enabling the ability to select credible information for Defense Central Index of Investigations (DCII) submissions, providing better categorization of file uploads, streamlining of the process for mandatory reporting segments, and improving clarification with the implementation of a more robust help module, user guides, and hover tools.

Defenders provided more than 700 National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) Report reviews with squadrons and trained users from every MAJCOM. This training helps shorten recruiting timelines, increase accuracy, and fill gaps in policy knowledge.

The enterprise continues to make significant progress towards a modernized Integrated Base Defense Security System (IBDSS) solution. We expect a Physical Security Information Monitoring Software contract to be awarded, which will serve as the official enterprise solution for the PICARD migration strategy. Along with hardware and technology upgrades, the system will offer secure cloud capability across the force.

Over the past year the Requirements team and the Air Force Security Forces Center have worked hard to identify a replacement for legacy Tactical Security Systems. The team procured a bridging solution aimed at initial LOGDET recapitalization and continue to push forward with the development of the enterprise solution by the end of FY24. 

  • Force Development and Human Capital: In the past year, we implemented occupational medical examinations for Defenders and removed barriers to seeking mental healthcare in the Air Force Specialty Code retention standard. We continue to move forward with the Model Defender accession effort, identifying and classifying new enlistees with attributes aligned with the Base Defense mindset. Additionally, the Female Defender Initiative (FDI) is fostering a culture where Security Forces Women thrive and identifying opportunities to change policy in ways that benefit all our Defenders. Over the past year, the FDI Action Team has visited eight bases and met with Defenders across the Total Force, working to gather inputs, provide support, and ensure our Airmen know that they are being heard and advocated for at the highest levels. 
  • Military Working Dogs: The career field funded the initial stages of development to replace the legacy Working Dog Management System. The new system will improve user experience and better house data, reducing dog handlers' time completing administrative tasks so they can focus on an increasingly demanding operations tempo. The DoD MWD Scheduling Team, located at the Air Force Security Forces Center, executed a record non-election year mission schedule with over 1500 individual teams tasked, integrated into multiple Joint Task Forces, and developed a new team lead concept for all overseas POTUS missions. Finally, the MWD enterprise will receive much-needed investment in the next fiscal year, beginning a multi-year upgrade and renovation plan for the 341st Training Squadron's kennel and schoolhouse facilities at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. 
  • Weapons & Tactics: After two successful Weapons and Tactics courses this year, A4S has begun deliberate planning to accredit the program and nest it within a Weapons Squadron at the USAF Warfare Center portfolio. This will involve codifying the program and linking it to specific outcomes Defense Force Commanders will expect within their squadrons.  Working with the Security Forces Center, which will continue to refine the course syllabus, A4S will incorporate the program into relevant instructions and manuals. This hard work led directly into Defender Flag and Defender Challenge. It was a tremendous set of events that directly links into how we are changing our focus for Great Power Competition and what is needed to be ready to Protect, Defend, and Fight! 

In 2023, Combat Arms began its largest reform since 1997. For approximately 8 years and running, Combat Arms has been undermanned operating at 79%. With the major changes in AFFORGEN approaching and increase demand in weapons training, a change needed to happen at once, to prepare the Air Force for the future threat. We hosted a two-day workshop with 45 Combat Arms professionals selected from each of their MAJCOMS to discuss the Combat Arms reformation. 

Lastly, Security Forces will introduce Defender Weapons Trainers, personnel who are able to conduct weapons qualification training for SF personnel only on the M4 and M18. SSgts and above may be selected to become Defender Weapons Trainer and will be certified by the CATM Trainer. This new position focuses on all training for instructors and trainers while managing this brand-new program. 

We will launch into 2024 with the same drive we had in 2023 to ensure we are ready for what the future holds. 

Thank you for everything you do daily!  It is not lost on us what you endure to defend the Airmen, Guardians, families, and resources that collectively make us the most powerful force on Earth. Please take stock in how incredibly important each one of you are to our Defender Family and to the Department of the Air Force.

Maj. Gen. Sherman, Mr. Gerald and CMSgt Gallagher

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