Air University Review July-August 1967
Colonel Donald C. Shultis
To say that a commander must be seriously concerned with the security of his forces is perhaps to overstate the obvious. The need to maintain proper security of one’s base is an accepted principle of war. At the same time, in common with the other principles, its proper application will depend upon a number of variables in any given situation. A commander is always faced with the problem of determining not only how much security he needs and how to provide it but also how much he can afford. Recognizing that the resources for any particular job are always going to be limited and realizing, too, that certain eventualities must be guarded against at all costs, we must devise a system of operation, within available resources, that will permit necessary operational flexibility but still cut the inherent risk factor to a minimum. In any event, we cannot operate aircraft without reasonably secure bases.
Recent Air Force operations in an insurgency environment have brought this general problem into sharp focus. Under normal peacetime conditions, most of the more extreme security contingencies could be relegated to the status of planning factors for wartime guidance, with the comfortable assurance that they would probably remain in this category. But when we begin locating Air Force resources in forward operating areas, in a hostile environment, the situation changes drastically. Now the remote possibilities become distinct probabilities. Sabotage, infiltration, terrorism, espionage, attack by sapper bands at night, attack by surreptitiously emplaced guerrilla-served mortars and other artillery—all these become very real and ever present considerations, as to both probability and consequence. They are disproportionately expensive to operators of multimillion-dollar aircraft.
Under such conditions, certain axiomatic principles that might normally guide our actions are no longer applicable. In a conventional wartime situation, for example, one simply does not locate an air base for sustained operation within artillery or mortar range of known enemy forces. Basic common sense would define this as a completely untenable situation. But in an area where small—or even sizable—groups of insurgents can blend in with the local populace and exploit to the fullest their inherent advantages of surprise and mobility, any location may be potentially within range of an enemy attack at any time.
This, then, becomes the main security threat in an insurgency area—the constant possibility of attack from any direction, by groups of perhaps less than 100 individuals employing a variety of weapons, including mortars and recoilless rifles, It is a formidable threat to contemplate—so much so, in fact, that any approach to base security along conventional lines is a frustratingly inadequate one.
Some of the major considerations that have influenced Air Force security
To begin with, base security must be a joint effort, with external area defense responsibilities resting on friendly ground forces. Before a forward area base can begin full operation, there must be at least some degree of relative area stability in the situation. While USAF Security Police forces can, within their area of responsibility, maintain a surveillance, detection, and response capability adequate to cope with limited attack, the Air Force has neither the equipment, personnel, nor mission responsibility to develop a sizable ground defense capability against well-organized and-equipped ground forces. The Air Force cannot accept such responsibility without necessitating review and reassignment of roles and missions and all the related actions required.
The initial requirement, then, is for a coordinated, mutual defense effort which will ensure that supporting ground forces provide a reasonable degree of external protection. For example, a regular enemy force of battalion size should not be able to organize in the general vicinity, bring up necessary equipment, and move unopposed to the confines of the base. If this degree of assurance cannot be provided by external area surveillance, scouting, and defense capabilities, then an attempt at sustained base operations is likely to be unduly costly.
Assuming, then, the existence of the necessary area stability, with reasonable prospects that the situation will not deteriorate rapidly and seriously, the Air Force requirement becomes one of developing an effective surveillance and detection capability around our own perimeters; providing USAF Security Police forces with rapid, reliable methods of communication; insuring a strong and prompt response or reinforcement; and providing secondary backup USAF Security Police forces with a rapid mobilization and maneuver capability.
The strength of base Security Police forces, in terms of actual manpower, is not as important as are certain other basic requirements. The abilities to detect, maneuver, communicate, and deliver high-intensity small-arms fire, in coordination with aerial flare and fire support, are the essentials. The tactics of the defense, in other words, must concentrate on depriving the guerrilla of his main advantages—surprise, mobility, and speed of attack.
To design a USAF Security Police system to accomplish this job required some radical departures from our previous concepts and methods of operation. Air base security systems in the past have been concerned largely with protection of essential elements of our weapon systems, particularly alert aircraft, ready missiles, and nuclear weapons, rather than the entire base. This system was based on normal ZI operating conditions in a relatively secure rear area, with little threat of an armed attack directed against the base. The established system of security priorities was based upon the relative importance of resources required for carrying out the main wartime mission, which thus had to be kept in an assured state of readiness.
As can be seen, then, this system was not designed for continued operations in a hostile environment, where every element of the base personnel, warehouses, POL, aircraft, and ammunition are liable to attack and destruction. For such environmental conditions a “whole base” protective concept was needed. Further complicating the situation was the fact that Security Police manning standards had been established for the limited, peacetime security mission. Of course, to protect only selected, high-priority resources required less strength than to protect entire installations.
Still another problem was inherent in the system of assigning and rotating individuals rather than units. This meant that operational security forces for a given base had to be built up under field conditions. The men came from a variety of command assignments, from bases with differing security systems and requirements, and thus the Commander of Security Police at the receiving installation was faced with the task of welding together all these individual assignees into a trained and coordinated unit, while carrying out full regular operations at the same time.
As a result of these experiences, the Directorate of Security Police, USAF (then the Directorate of Security and Law Enforcement), in July 1966 entered upon a one-year test project which was given the name “Safe Side.” Essentially, Project Safe Side is the 1041st Security Police Squadron, a unit specially formed, trained, equipped, and deployed to accomplish the fol1owing tasks:
· Test and evaluate advanced security equipment, including intrusion detection, surveillance, and communications devices, as well as weapons and vehicles
· Evaluate Air Force Security Police training methods and requirements
· Provide operating experience to help determine how best to develop an improved security capability for Air Force installations
· Provide basic experience toward the development of security doctrine for operations in an insurgency or limited-war environment. This includes the possible establishment of specially trained and equipped units that would be immediately available to secure the emergency deployment of any Air Force resource.
While several of these objectives could be met only by establishment and
field deployment of the special test unit, certain other desired answers could
be found in the experiences and capabilities of Security Police units already
in the field. This latter opportunity has not been neglected. Changes in
operational concepts and methods, as well as new types of equipment, have been
Coordination and control systems have been worked out, under field
conditions, for the maximum effective coordination of aerial flare and fire
support for ground security forces. Sentry dog patrol systems and methods of
use have been adapted in a remarkably effective manner to meet the requirements
of counterguerrilla operations. Special training courses for USAF Security
Police personnel bound for
On the other hand, Project Safe Side provides a unique opportunity to test several concepts which have long been considered desirable but which could not be exercised because of previous limitations. For instance, the 1041st Squadron is the first Security Police squadron that has been formed, trained, and deployed as a unit. Its members, all volunteers, had nearly six months’ experience working and training together as a team before they were deployed, still as a team, to a combat area. They could operate, immediately upon arrival, as a fully effective unit and will be returned to the States as such.
The personnel training that has been given to
members of the 1041st transcends any previous Air Force Security Police
training. As an example, for more than 20 members of the 225-man squadron,
graduation from the
One of the main objectives of Project Safe Side is to evaluate the application of advanced technology to items of security equipment. In the main, the individual policeman—civilian or military—continues to carry and use the same equipment that his predecessor used in the 1890’s: a club, pistol, and whistle. For communications, the standard radio and telephone are still the two main standbys. And for most military purposes, the primary system for intrusion detection and prevention continues to be human surveillance over the standard barbed-wire-topped chain-link fence. While the rest of the Air Force has kept pace with the technological developments that have moved us rapidly into space, in the protection of our resources and in our ground security capability we remained, figuratively speaking, in the days of the open cockpit.
Operation Safe Side is now in its second phase: deployment to a combat area where the squadron will operate under actual field conditions. Of the success of the unit itself, there can be little doubt. Its men are superbly trained and equipped; little expense has been spared to provide them with the most advanced weapons, detection devices, and other security equipment. From this standpoint, then, there is no “test” involved, for it is a foregone conclusion that if all USAF Security Police units could be so trained and equipped, our general capability would improve tremendously.
What the test will resolve are questions concerning which types of equipment will prove to be most reliable and effective; whether additional special USAF Security Police units should be organized, trained, and equipped to provide a unit deployment capability to support contingency operations; what manning and equipment standards should be established for such units; what special training and equipment may be necessary for and adaptable to all Air Force Security Police operations; and how basic security doctrine should be revised or expanded for application to counterinsurgency and limited-war conditions.
Results of Project Safe Side will be reviewed and evaluated by an Air Staff working group which has been formed expressly for that purpose. Based upon this review and evaluation, a decision will be made as to how the results and findings of the test will be applied Air Force-wide. The end result should be the formulation and adoption of a security system which will not only support but also—and even more important—permit the continuing accomplishment of the Air Force mission in areas where the threat of limited ground attack is an ever present possibility In such an environment the outcome of air combat can depend on survivability on the ground. Helping to ensure our survivability is a main and continuing mission of the Air Force Security Police.
Hq United States Air Force
Colonel Donald C. Shultis (M. A.,
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this
document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression,
academic environment of
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