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Lackland security forces officer part of 'Inside Combat Rescue' documentary

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs
An Air Force Security Forces operations officer now assigned to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland was part of a recently released National Geographic documentary that showcased the multi-faceted skill sets of Security Forces Airmen in a deployed environment.

Capt. Ralph "R.J." Johnson, operations officer for the Security Forces apprentice course and a member of the 343rd Training Squadron at JBSA-Lackland since September 2013, was deployed to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, from the 820th Base Defense Group at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., when National Geographic television was filming "Inside Combat Rescue: The Last Stand" during June and July 2013.

Though the documentary focused on "Reaper Team 5," an elite Air Force Security Forces squad tasked with capturing or killing high-level Taliban targets who threatened Bagram, and the pararescuemen from the 83rd Rescue Squadron stationed there, it opened with Johnson and Security Forces Airmen conducting base defense.

The film crew captured them in action defending their section of fence line following a night rocket attack on Bagram that killed four military members at a bus stop. The explosion was near the base perimeter, about 100 yards away from the sector command post.

"The Security Forces story has never been told," Johnson said. "It was a great way of letting the public know that Security Forces Airmen do some incredible things for our country in a deployed environment.

"The average person doesn't know what Security Forces does on deployments. What's seen at home station is Security Forces checking IDs at the gate, in patrol cars writing tickets, as first responders," he said. "At Bagram, we controlled the base security zone, from the perimeter to 10 kilometers out in all directions doing counter indirect fire, counter IED (improvised explosive device) patrols and counter insurgency patrols."

The crew, which had been filming about two weeks before the attack, had a camera set up inside the sector command post they could turn on at any time, said Johnson, one of five sector commanders (base perimeter defense was divided into five sections). He and Master Sgt. Ron Davis wore microphone packs at all times they could switch on.

The documentary showed a part of what Johnson and the Airmen under his command, who were responsible for a fence line section that was 11 kilometers (approximately six miles), did immediately following the attack.

He described base defense procedures since the documentary boiled their part down into a matter of minutes.

"Indirect fire attacks last normally around an hour to an hour and a half. From the time the rocket is launched until the time it hits, it's a matter of seconds," Johnson said. "The rocket is launched, it hits, now we have to search for the point of impact because sometimes it doesn't blow up, it's just sticking in the ground. We have to search and get a confirmed point of impact.

"As that's happening, simultaneously anybody in our squadron for base defense is generating up. The on-shift personnel are doing their perimeter sweeps, making sure there's no ongoing attack about to happen. The towers are on alert, the entry control points are shut down - nothing comes in, nothing goes out - everyone is pretty much locked and loaded and ready for a ground assault."

That particular night there was no ground attack.

"We did have intelligence brief us in the past that they're (the Taliban) out there," he said. "We get briefed the next day that they called off the attack. We wanted to deter them and that's exactly what we did. We presented them a very hard target to hit."

Johnson said it was kind of strange seeing himself in the film after attending the June premiere at Moody. He said he was proud for his Airmen to see what they did, to know all the training paid off and that everyone who deployed came home alive.

"Our job is to be air-minded defenders and protect assets on the base," Johnson said. "The film showed a component of what we do down range.

"This gets the story of Security Forces out," he added. "It's bigger than each individual in the film. It represents the more than 25,000 Airmen in our career field and it honors our ten fallen defenders who gave the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom."