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United States Air Force Security Forces
USAF Security Forces badge (black and white art).png
Security Forces Badge
Country United States of America
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Department of Defense
United States Department of the Air Force
Motto Defensor Fortis[1]
Beret Flash DefensorFortis.jpg
USAF policemen (Far left: Amn Marc Joel Berger) from Tan Son Nhut Air Base, watch for Viet Cong infiltration attempts along the base perimeter, during the Vietnam war

United States Air Force Security Forces (AFSC Enlisted: 3P0XX, formerly 771XX and 811XX; Officer: 31PX), formerly named Air Police (1948), then Security Police (April 1967) are the military police and the air base ground defense forces of the United States Air Force. Following completion of basic training, airmen in this career field go through 13 weeks of technical training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, with the 343rd Training Squadron, known as the Security Forces Academy.



TASS Operators consist of Security Forces personnel who complete a course on operation and maintenance of thermal imagery, sensors, and their components. Operators set up and provide surveillance to existing installations as well as mobile base camps. Operators use microwave, thermal, seismic, and 'trip-wire' sensors. Operators can also use a variety of camera systems such as CCTV systems, or the high tech military version, called the Wide-Area Infrared Surveillance Thermal Imager or WISTI. WISTI's can detect enemy movement by tracking body heat, or other heat resonances; or can be automatically routed to another sensor that goes off, in which the WISTI will automatically focus in and track the programmed sensor.

Since 1979, the Air Force has trained and maintained Emergency Services Teams (EST) that are similar to civilian SWAT teams.[2] Nuclear mission bases have have Tactical Response Force and Convoy Response Force (TRF/CRF) Units. These units are trained just like all other EST but go through training at Malmstrom for nuclear specific tasks. TRF/CRF units are on call with many other security forces units at nuclear bases and provide rapid response to emergency situations. Security Forces also known to deploy Close Precision Engagement (CPE) teams, also known as counter-snipers.


Additional training may be available to Security Forces such as the Close Precision Engagement Course (CPEC) at Fort Bliss, Texas. Security Forces members may also go through technical schools to help them as their careers develop. Some of these schools consist of, but are not limited to: Emergency Services Team (E.S.T.), Security Forces Dispatch Communications, Tactical Automated Sensor Systems Operator (TASS), Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (CATM), Military Police Investigator Course (MPI), or Military Working Dog Handlers.

When Security Forces members arrive at any new duty location, they will receive base-specific training from their respective squadrons. This includes base policies, anti-terrorism measures, squadron standard operating procedures, etc.

Some Security Forces members attend the Army's Air Assault School, Airborne school and Ranger School. Security Forces members can also go through advanced training in investigations or advanced driving school training by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).

Combat Arms Training and Maintenance officers (Air Force Specialty Code 3P0X1B) are personnel who train base personnel in the use of small arms weaponry, oversee and maintain and repair all small arms in the Air Force inventory. A second career direction Security Forces have is the Military Working Dog (MWD) program (AFSC 3P0X1A). Military Working Dog teams deploy explosive detection and narcotics detection dogs throughout the base. Dog Handlers perform law enforcement duties at their duty stations, deploy overseas to support major operations, and perform temporary duty (TDY) assignments, including protection of the President of the United States.

EST members undergo special tactics training (Special Reaction Team Course, Phase 1 and 2) at the Advanced Law Enforcement Training Division (ALETD) located at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. SRT Phase I is a SWAT entry-team course and Phase II covers sniper emplacement, marksmanship, and tactics. ALETD is run by the U.S. Army and provides the majority of specialty training for U.S. Army and Marine Corps Military Policemen as well as Air Force Security Forces and some civilian police departments.


All Security Forces are required to maintain qualifications on the M-4 Carbine and M-9 pistol. Different weapons skills can be obtained, such as the M-203 Grenade Launcher, the M-249 light machine gun, M-240B general-purpose machine gun, the M-2 50 caliber machine gun, and the MK-19 grenade launcher. In the past Security police personnel could also qualify with the M29 81mm mortar, M67 recoilless rifle, and M72 LAW. Obsolete weapons previously carried by S.P.s include the M1 Carbine or M2 Carbine (circa 1947-1972), M-60 (1965 to 1998), S&W Model 15 .38 caliber pistol (1960-c. 1990), XM148 (1966 - 1991), and M79 grenade launcher.

The Blue Beret

The first Security Police beret was issued by the 1041st Security Police Squadron (Test) and "Operation Safe Side", which was trained and fielded in 1966-67. This experimental and specially trained Air Base Ground Defense (ABGD) unit adopted a light blue beret displaying a falcon as its emblem. Its origin was likely the Army Ranger beret, as a tool of esprit de corps, since the cadre of the 1041st SPS received its initial training at the Army Ranger School. Operation Safe Side developed into the 82nd Combat Security Police Wing, consisting of three "combat security police" squadrons, but was deactivated in December 1968, ending the unofficial use of the light blue beret.[3]

Elsewhere during the Vietnam War, although not an authorized uniform item, some local security police commanders approved a dark blue beret for their units as alternate headgear to the official white Security Police cover for specific groups of specialized personnel. In Thailand during the late 1960's and early 1970's, Military Working Dog handlers assigned to the 6280th SPS at the Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base sported a dark blue beret with no insignia. Other units adopted a beret to distinguish their elite guards.[3]

In 1975 Brigadier General Thomas Sadler was appointed Air Force Chief of Security Police with the task of bringing the Security Police career field into the mainstream of the Air Force. One tool he employed was recognition of members of a distinctive portion of the force, with the beret proposed as a uniform change. Significant opposition to the beret from senior colonels and Major Command (MAJCOM) Chiefs was gradually overcome by the popularity of the concept with personnel. The uniform board approved the proposal, and the beret was officially worn worldwide starting in February 1976.[4][3]

The 1976 beret was worn with the MAJCOM crest of the appropriate major command to which the unit was assigned. It continued in this manner for 20 years until the forming of the Security Forces. In March 1997, the 82nd CSPW was reactivated and redesignated the 820th Security Forces Group. The heraldry of the 820th SFG then replaced the individual MAJCOM emblems as beret insignia.[5][3]


A member of the USAF Security Police (173d Security Forces Squadron).

The position of Air Provost Marshal came into being in March 1943 at the direction of General Henry H. Arnold, commander of the United States Army Air Forces. When the Air Force became a separate entity in January 1948, its military police became air police. The Air Provost Marshal came under the Air Force Inspector General. The organization title became Director of Security and Law Enforcement in 1960. The term air police became security police in 1967 and then in 1997 was changed to Security Forces.

The security police function left the inspector general umbrella in 1975 and began reporting to the Air Force Chief of Staff. The title of Chief of Security Police then replaced the title Directory. The security police headquarters moved from Washington DC to Kirtland AFB NM in 1978 and became the Air Force Office of Security Police (AFOSP), a separate operating agency, again under the Inspector General. In 1991, as part of an Air Staff reorganization, the Chief of Security Police was again aligned directly under the Air Force Chief of Staff. The Chief of Security Police and the staff needed to work security police policy issues was relocated to The Pentagon, Washington DC.

A little over half of the AF Security police staff remained at Kirtland AFB as a field operating agency, the Air Force Security Police Agency (AFSPA). AFSPA reported directly to the Air Force Chief of Security Police. AFSPA was composed of four directorates: security; law enforcement and training; resources; and corrections. In January 1997, as a result of the Khobar Towers bombing,an Air Force Chief of Staff directed reorganization of Security Forces designed to improve Air Force force protection capabilities, the Air Force Chief of Security Police was re-designated the Air Force Director of Security Forces, and in October 1997, the Security Police career field became the Security Forces career field. AFSPA was reorganized in November 1997 and relocated to Lackland AFB Texas.

The new organization, designated the Air Force Security Forces Center, consists of three units: Headquarters, the AF Force Protection Battle lab, and the 820th Security Forces Group. The Headquarters Air Force Security Forces Center (HQ AFSFC) is commanded by the duel-hatted Air Force Director of Security Forces. HQ AFSFC acts as an extension of the Pentagon staff, conducting staff studies dealing with a wide range of topics, including nuclear security, antiterrorism/force protection, base defense, police services, combat arms and Security Forces training, equipment management, and military working dogs. The Headquarters consists of three divisions: Force Protection, Operations, and Corrections, with three geographically separated units-Miramar, California; Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; and Charleston, South Carolina.

The Force Protection Battlelab's commander reports to the HQ AFSFC commander. Force Protection Battlelab's mission is to rapidly identify and prove the worth of innovative Force Protection ideas which improve the ability of the Air Force to execute it's core competencies and joint warfighting. The Battlelab rapidly measures the worth of new ideas and presents them to the Air Force senior leadership for consideration involving changes to the way the Air Force currently organizes, trains, equips, executes, plans and commands.

The 820th Security Forces Group provides a highly-trained, rapidly-deployable "first-in" force protection capability to any operating location in support of the USAF Global Engagement mission. The 820th gives the Air Force a totally dedicated composite unit for force protection, drawing from many disciplines, not just Security Forces. The unit is composed of personnel from Security Forces, Office of Special Investigations, civil engineering, logistics and supply, communications, intelligence, administration, personnel, and medical career fields, providing the capability to assess each threat and act accordingly.[6]


Recent Changes

Brig. Gen. Robert Holmes, director of security forces and force protection, calls these transformations a "refocus" on how his people train and fight.

"We're not in the Cold War anymore; we have to alter our mentality and our practices for today's reality," the general said. "Because of the nature of the threat, our Airmen are fighting the global war on terror on the front lines, and we owe it to them to provide training, equipment and resources to be effective."

Essentially, security forces will focus on preparing for their warfighting mission at forward locations, as well as security at a fixed installation, General Holmes said. As an example, he cited an Air Force task force that operated around Balad Air Base, Iraq, for two months last year. The unit patrolled the local towns and found weapons caches as well as individuals who posed a threat to the base. Security forces must learn counterinsurgency techniques to operate more effectively in joint operations, said Maj. Gen. Norman Seip, assistant deputy chief of staff for air and space operations.

While security forces will focus more on their warfighting competencies, Air Force leaders are reviewing several options for installation protection duties, such as entry control, at home stations. Plans call for more DOD civilians, greater affiliation with Guard and Reserve and better use of technologies, General Holmes said. The changes to the security forces career field will present the opportunity for other Airmen to participate in installation security. While that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will have a rotation checking identification cards at a gate, it does mean more comprehensive training, awareness and capability to respond and participate, he said.

While definitive plans have not been finalized, General Holmes also said one of the transformation goals is bringing security forces back in step with standard Air Force 120-day deployments. Overall, General Holmes said the changes would make security forces more effective and relevant to Air Force needs in the face of the current changing nature of warfare.

"We want to make our Airmen more proficient, and to do that, we need to adapt," General Holmes said. "We're going to change our training, our tactics and our procedures and the Air Force will be better for it" [7].

In November 2007, it was announced that the Air Force was going to triple the number of Security Forces personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan to back-fill Army and Marines Corps mission tasks.[8]


The last two Mounted Cavalry units of the U.S. Military were the horse patrol sections of the 3rd Security Police Squadron of 3rd Security Police Group, Clark Air Base Philippines, and the 24th Security Police Squadron Howard Air Force Base Panama

See also


  1. ^ Latin phrase Literally, "Protector of the Powerful", but per Pinckney 148, intended as "Defender of the Force".
  2. ^ Pinckney 2009, pp. 111-113
  3. ^ a b c d "History of the Security Police Beret". Safeside Association. Retrieved 21 Jan 2010. 
  4. ^ Pinckney 2009, p. 102
  5. ^ Pinckney 2009, p. 147
  6. ^ ( fact sheet) 10th Security Forces Squadron
  7. ^ Air Force Print News, 2006
  8. ^ Stars and Stripes: Air Force to triple number of airmen helping Army, Marines in Iraq
  • Pinckney, Kali (2009). Defensor Fortis:The History of the Air Force Military Police, Air Police, Security Police, and the Security Forces. Lexington, Kentucky: PinckTank Publishing. ISBN 0-615-32829-6. 

External links


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