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Sheppard SFS members FAST to assist supply missions

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Candy Miller
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
The next time a C-130 carrying vital supplies lands at a remote airfield in the Horn of Africa, Iraq or Afghanistan, there's a good chance the first people off the aircraft will be members of Team Sheppard.

Thirteen Sheppard security forces Airmen are currently part of the Fly Away Security Team. They're based in Kuwait, but their work takes them to remote unsecured airfields all over the region.

The FAST program, which evolved from the Phoenix Raven program, provides flight deck denial missions and ground security at various Raven locations across the area of responsibility that have inadequate security. They are the first, and usually the last, line of defense for the aircraft and crew.

"They are the one thing between the enemy and the aircraft," said Maj. William Lowery, 82nd Security Forces Squadron commander.

The mission

Senior Airman Jovanni Owens, a FAST leader, said the team protects against any possible insurgent attacks against the aircraft while on the ground and protects the flight deck against hijacking attempts.

"We facilitate the transportation of tons of cargo," he said. "We secure the much needed supplies to the war fighter and civilian support personnel."

Staff Sgt. Dominic Macias, 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron FAST coordinator, said the flight deck denial missions transport host nation or state department personnel. He also said the team provides ground security when they travel to very rural airfields or an airfield that has very low or no security present.

The members of FAST fly in two-man teams for Operation Iraqi Freedom missions and four-man teams for Horn of Africa missions.

Sergeant Macias also said FAST members go to Iraq everyday to take troops and supplies all over the AOR. The team has also supported missions in Afghanistan and Jordan, he said.

"Every mission is like a small deployment," he said. "As FAST coordinator, I make sure they have their gear, weapons, food and coordinate paperwork, and then I drop them off and pick them up."

Sergeant Macias said the team's duties overseas have provided an opportunity to step out of the norm. At Sheppard the duties of the 82nd SFS include investigations, unit deployment managers, combat arms training and maintenance, patrolman and desk sergeant.

"Here we have the chance to augment the security escort teams and the off base patrols, the Vipers. The SET provides security for convoys' movement of inbound or outbound troops. Vipers provide additional security for the base outside the wire," he said.

Major Lowery said deployment missions are always dynamic for security forces members. Sheppard people have had missions including counter drug operations, prison operations, convoys and police training.

"FAST is the latest example of something new and phenomenal that Sheppard does to fight terrorism," he said.

Sheppard's effect

Sergeant Macias said Sheppard's role has a major impact on the war.

"Last calendar year, our FAST section was the busiest in the area of responsibility out of five, and we are on the way to doing it again," Sergeant Macias said. "We provided security for over 72,000 passengers and 2.3 million pounds of cargo in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Horn of Africa last year. So far this year, we have secured over 21,000 passengers and 1.8 million pounds of cargo."

Airman 1st Class Joshua Schreiber said he knows he's making an impact on the war because of all the supplies and personnel he's helped expedite into the AOR.

"We assist all branches of the military -- Marines, Navy, Army and Air Force -- in getting supplies, equipment and transportation throughout the AOR," he said. "Without us, pilots would not be able to land C-130 aircraft in airstrips that are unsecure and they would not be able to transport personnel. Both are critical to the OEF mission."

Airman Schreiber said these duties cannot be taken lightly.

"We secured millions of dollars of government equipment that is essential to the mission," he said. He added that although many people wouldn't like the job, it is imperative.

"We need to work with proficiency and professionalism," he said. "Everybody has an important role here that needs to be executed and if we don't do our job then they can't do theirs."

Airman Owens said the team is tasked with numerous missions daily.

"We are currently tasked with the most missions in the AOR and each mission we are tasked to do we are able to get the job done at any time," he said.

Professional people

Sergeant Macias said the FAST mission is vital and the Air Force would ensure it is accomplished with or without Sheppard's involvement. But he is proud that Sheppard's members have raised the bar by executing it in such a professional manner.

"My guys are true professionals and they prove it every day," he said. "We have surpassed our leadership's expectations. I believe we have set the bar here with our awards and personnel recognition from section to wing level. We have developed a great relationship with the flight crews and it shows on the flight line and up at the wing."

Airman Schreiber said it's important for Sheppard to take part in this mission "simply because we've proven ourselves over and over again."

"We excelled in Fly Away Security School and at Phoenix Warrior training at Fort Dix, N.J.," he said. "While conducting the FAST mission out of Ali Al Salem, we have been commended on our professionalism and hard work. We put in long hours and in the end we accomplished the job with professionalism."

Expanding cultural awareness

Airman Owens said he loves traveling to various countries.

"I was able to see the African wilderness and wild animals. In Uganda I was able to see the Nile River and Lake Victoria," he said. "Later on in the day, I had the opportunity to meet a native and he told me about his culture."

Airman Schreiber said staying in Africa for a few days is also his key memory of the deployment.

"The countryside and the African people were amazing to interact with," he said. "It was interesting to see what it was like on the other side of the world."

Airman Owens said the deployment has made him stronger mentally, physically and spiritually.

"Overall I have been very blessed to have been given this experience and a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said.