219th Security Forces Squadron Makes History
219th Security Forces Squadron Becomes First Guard Unit to Ever Provide Complete Security of Missile Field Sector
MINOT, N.D. — About six years after being born, they graduated.
“Birth” and “graduation” were two of the recurring analogies used throughout last week as members of the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 219th Security Forces Squadron made history. For the first time ever, anywhere, reserve forces assumed complete control of missile field security.
In May 2007, the Guard’s security forces began a partnership with the Minot Air Force Base, supplementing their active-duty counterparts to provide security for one of the nation’s three missile fields. Side-by-side, active and reserve forces protect 150 launch facilities and corresponding missile alert facilities for the Minuteman III Weapons System across an area in northwestern North Dakota that’s about the size of New Jersey.
Last week, the Guard assumed control of the entire northern sector. As they did so, a complex scenario full of surprises — from suicide bombers to launch facility breaches —played out to test what the Airmen have learned throughout years of intensive training and tests.
“This is a major exercise that culminates a five-year process of having the 219th seamlessly integrate day to day into the missile field with the active forces, so a huge milestone, major success for the Guard and active-duty integration,” said Col. RobertVercher, 91st Missile Wing commander, after the exercise. “… This is a historic event.
This has actually never occurred before. Traditionally, we integrate Guard members … (in) small squads with the active duty. In this case, this was a total force integration in which the unit has pretty much taken over the entire security for the northern sector. A historic event but in true Guard and active-duty integration, unremarkable in that it was pulled off effortlessly without any seams.”
Capt. Greg Goodman, who works as the 219th operations officer, served as the on-scene commander for the exercise, directing both active-duty and Guard forces across more than 4,000 square miles of mission area.
“That’s an amazing event. That’s something that happens nowhere else in the Air Force,” Master Sgt. William Truitt, who served as an exercise evaluator from the 91st Missile Wing, said of the Guard’s integration. “… As a career enlisted man, I’m blown away.”
Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, observed the peak of the weeklong exercise, calling the performance “an awesome response to a complex situation.”
“We have some of the most incredible Airmen anywhere in the world right here in North Dakota,” he told the group of National Guard and active-duty Airmen assembled near the N-8 launch facility outside of Mohall, N.D., after the exercise. “… What you do in day in and day out is critical to the defense of the nation, and from what I saw this morning, we’re clearly in good hands.”
Beyond taking control of the northern sector and completing the complex exercise, the 219th is making history in other ways. Maj. Kit Allen, a North Dakota National Guard Airman, is serving full-time as the 91st Security Support Squadron commander, overseeing active-duty forces while there’s a gap between the outgoing and incoming Air Force commanders. During the exercise, he directed forces from the main operating base.
Additionally, Tech. Sgt. Kelly Gonzalez is about to become the first traditional or “part-time” Guardsman ever to become certified in performing duties as a flight security controller in the missile fields. The certification does not come easy — there’s extremely detailed and extensive verbal and written testing over a long period of time coupled with weapons proficiency, scenario-based training and tests, and on-the-job training. According to 1st Sgt. Larry Torres, an enlisted leader for the 219th, only “the cream of the crop” are even selected to begin such training.
“It’s kind of exciting just to think that before they said this would never happen — that there would never be an Air Guardsman as an FSC — but here I am,” she said.
Lt. Col. Tad Schauer, 219th Security Forces Squadron commander, said that despite meeting the new milestones, there’s still room for the mission to grow at the Minot Air Force Base.
When he took command of the new unit a half-dozen years ago, naysayers said that it “was a bridge to far for the Air National Guard to perform nuclear security. We all know in the National Guard that we sat on nuclear alert at the 119th Wing in Fargo (in the 1960s and 1970s), so we knew this could be accomplished.”
During last week’s exercise, the 219th Squadron’s “graduation day,” the Guardsmen proved their ability to successfully secure the nation’s missile fields while integrating seamlessly with their active-duty counterparts.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 4,000 Soldiers and more than 2,400 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. About 70 percent of all members serving today have joined since that time. Currently, about 70 North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas and more than 200 are serving in Washington, D.C., and on the southwest border of the United States. With a total force of about 4,400 Guardsmen, the North Dakota National Guard remains ready for stateside response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that’s more than four times the national average
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