• Mon. Oct 3rd, 2022

Force Protection Airmen Flexibility to Accomplish Their Mission > US Air Forces Central > Article Display

ByJanice K. Merrill

Jul 21, 2022

In the Air Force, airmen must sometimes operate in unfamiliar situations, outside their comfort zone. The 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Force Protection Team exemplifies this capability by demonstrating how quickly Airmen can learn and perform tasks under varying circumstances.

FP is the group of Airmen who escort and supervise Other Country Nationals under Contract, or OCN, who work on the AUAB. What differentiates FP from other jobs on AUAB is that it is an Air Force temporary assignment job, not an Air Force career. Airmen from all Air Force jobs are assigned as FPs and learn the ropes once they get there.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Garret Gentry, superintendent of FP at AUAB, is originally a civil engineer at Travis Air Force Base, California. Three months ago, he was assigned to lead FP at AUAB.

“In this force protection flight, we have 197 airmen responsible for the daily escort operations of all OCNs on Al Udeid,” Gentry said. “We are that first line of defense in case of suspicious activity for OCNs.”

NCOs provide key services to the AUAB, such as food preparation and serving, dormitory construction and maintenance, and sanitation work. Force protection is present everywhere on the base where the NCOs work.

“It goes from all the big construction projects, like dormitories, to people driving garbage trucks,” Gentry said. “They monitor about 3,500 OCNs a day, 24/7.”

The work is demanding, with a short turnaround period for new FP Airmen to learn the ropes.

“Usually within the first 12 hours we welcome them and draft their documents. Then we go to a two-phase approach,” Gentry said. “The first phase will define the fundamental responsibilities of force protection, namely the responsibility and observation of NCOs. After the first phase, we entrust them to their specialized sections.

The short rotation time between deployed rotations presents a unique challenge that new leaders must learn to work with.

“In those 197 FP Airmen, there are 95 different AFSCs that are here. Everyone brings their own work culture, so now I have 95 different personalities and have to form a cohesive team,” Gentry said. “For NCOs, maybe this is a good time for them to really hone their leadership style. It’s a melting pot of leadership here.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Briana Bonets, a medic from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, was deployed to AUAB and became a shift supervisor for FP.

“As a noncommissioned officer and team leader, I make sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be in the morning and take responsibility,” Bonets said. “I also make sure everything is fine in the dorms and that everyone gets along.”

In some cases, NCOs will take on responsibilities as PFs that they would not normally have at their substantive position.

“Being a shift manager at Nellis means leading a shift like 12 people in total. Here, I am at the head of 60 people,” explains Bonet. “It’s a good experience, that’s what I appreciate here. I learn firsthand how to become a supervisor.

Learning a new job in a short period of time can be challenging, but the adaptability Airmen demonstrate when fulfilling this role helps make them more complete and prepare them for future career opportunities.

“They certainly get great first-hand experience of what the Air Force says – be flexible!” Bonet said.