Behind the badge
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Operating 24-hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, Airmen in the 18th Security Forces Squadron are charged with security and force protection of more than 34,000 personnel and billions of dollars’ worth of deployed assets, equipment and aircraft here.
To be a "Defender,” takes a high volume of training and knowledge in weaponry, laws, directives and programs, policies, and procedures governing security forces activities, as well as a motivated individual ready for the task at hand.
“I was extremely motivated to be security forces,” said Airman 1st Class Rachel Dolan, 18th SFS patrolman. “I told my recruiter when I was coming in that I would wait forever if I had to, because I wanted all the action that’s in our job. I wanted to be able to get the bad guys and help the good guys.”
The squadron has a 58-square-mile legal jurisdiction which includes seven Department of Defense schools and 14 housing areas. Additionally, the squadron supports pass and registration services for the installation, criminal investigative capabilities and completes more than 18,000 customs inspections annually.
“We work strange hours most of the time,” said Staff Sgt. Troy Turnbo, 18th SFS patrolman. “An 8-hour shift typically lasts 10 and a 10-hour shift will usually last 12 to 14 hours by the time we turn in all of our gear and get the paperwork done.”
Strange hours and weekend shifts are not uncommon for security forces. Dolan started her day at 4 a.m. and was scheduled to be done with her shift by 12:30 p.m. but by the time shift change was over and all the paper work was complete, it was after 1:30 p.m. that she was able to go home.
“Even though we work a lot, I find this job really satisfying,” Dolan said. “I really like the feeling of being able to respond out and help people who are in need.”
The essence of U.S. military presence on Okinawa comes in the form of partnerships with the Okinawan people. Within the 18th SFS, this holds true just the same.
Though Airmen make up a vast number of Kadena’s Defenders, not everyone who wears a uniform and the iconic Defender’s beret is American. Numerous Okinawans also make up the security forces family, frequently seen running ID checks at the gates or translating when responding to off-base accidents and emergencies.
“We have Japanese interpreters because we constantly receive calls from the police and fire departments off base,” said Dolan. “They sit in the same office as us and work with us 24/7. They are so awesome and helpful. I love working with them.”
Turnbo added, the Defenders are trained to respond to any emergency ranging from car accidents and routine traffic incidents to active shooters and mass casualty situations. For anyone who comes in contact with a member of the 18th SFS, he said to remember they’re there to help.
“We maintain security and protection of the base,” said Dolan. “A lot of people will only come in contact with us when we are at the gate or pulling someone over, and they can get frustrated, but it’s important for them to know we are here and doing it for the protection of our military members and their families.”