History in the Making – 99th GCTS Garners First ACC Order of the Shield Unit Award

2/9/2015 – CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nevada — The 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron received the first Air Combat Command Security Forces Order of the Shield unit award during a ceremony Feb. 6, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada.

The ceremony recognizes individuals or ACC units who have made significant contributions to security, training, and ground defense of ACC installations, missions, personnel, and resources. Those being recognized will be presented a shield which represents defenders as the true shield of protection against attacks.

In addition to this, for the 99th GCTS, it marks the unit’s draw-down and eventual inactivation, slated for March 2015.

“This squadron has an amazing history and has made substantial contributions to the development and training of security forces Airmen for the last three decades,” said Maj. Jesse Goens, 99th GCTS commander. “It is an incredible honor to be one of the last Airmen assigned to the 99 GCTS and all of us here are trying to write a strong final chapter that this proud squadron deserves,” Goens said.

For 20 years cadre assigned to the 99th GCTS, formally known as the 99th Ground Combat Training Flight, have prepared tens of thousands of defenders for combat using the Silver Flag Alpha training range located south of Creech AFB.

“Silver Flag Alpha has been Air Combat Command’s premier regional training center for roughly 33 years,” said Senior Master Sgt. James Robbins, 99th GCTS superintendent of operations. “Each year, 3,000 security forces (defenders) were trained at Silver Flag Alpha in twenty-three core combat expeditionary skills, advanced base security operations, and area security operations mission requirements.”

The skills taught by the 99th GCTS instructors were comprised of various tactical training courses such as Tactical Automated Sensor Systems, Base Security Operations, M67 Fragmentation Grenade, Mounted Operations, Dismounted Operations, small arms and heavy weapons, Military Working Dog, Tactical Vehicle Training, and more.

Since Silver Flag Alpha stood up in 1981, it has been home to the 4554th Tactical Air Command Combat Arms School, 4554th Ground Combat Training Squadron, 554th Security Police Group, 554th Security Police Operations Flight, 554th Security Police Squadron, 99th GCTF, 99th GCTS, and Ranger Assessment Course. All of which had a part in garnering the unit honor of being presented the Order of the Shield.

Just as each unit had their role, every Airman, cadre, and leader within the units, both current and historical, have worked hard to ensure mission accomplishment.

“Silver Flag Alpha never lost sight of its vision … to ensure every student received the best training possible,” Robbins said. “There was no compromise in training, as doing so could’ve cost someone his or her life.”

Goens said that the 99th GCTS was the most dedicated, diligent, and resilient group of Airmen he has ever seen and he is honored to be a part of the proud unit.

Robbins added the cadre’s hard work was reinforced by feedback from the students. Some Airmen said the training at the 99th GCTS was the best Air Force training they had received and the cadre established a great learning environment by going out of their way to answer any questions and provide support to the entire student body.

“Every day, cadre executed the mission with pride and professionalism,” Robbins said. “But, it was not just a job to them, it was a way of life. They wanted to ensure every brother and sister returned home safely.”

As the squadron draws to a close, the leadership took time to reminisce about their experience while being there.

Goens reflected on some of his most memorable moments to include being a part of Chief Master Sgt. Mike Phillips’ promotion ceremony, who was the last chief to promote in the squadron. During the students’ training Goens watched one Airman struggle with his weapon who by the end of training finally ‘got it’. Another time, he observed an Airman having a hard time with Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle operations, who eventually graduated the course ready for the mission.

“There are a lot of [great memories] and I’m thankful for all of them,” Goens said. “Narrowing it down to one, would be impossible.”

Robbins said the best part of his time at the 99th GCTS was being able to supervise the most professional and dignified corps of instructors who affected the lives of thousands of security forces members daily, and see the growth in each Airman as they worked to advance each other to match an unknown enemy.

“It’s an emotional moment in history,” Robbins said. “The memories are engrained forever and we have no regrets.”

The 99th GCTS Silver Flag Alpha is one of four regional training locations slated to close as part of a consolidation effort with the U.S. Army. The Silver Flag Alpha training will be relocated to the Headquarters of Security Forces Center Desert Defender at Fort Bliss, Texas, under the 204th Security Forces Squadron.

“The consolidated training location at Ft. Bliss, run by the 204th Security Forces Squadron, will offer a lot of benefits to the Air Force and our career field,” Goens said. ”
The range capacity at Ft. Bliss is unmatched and the centralized location will allow our career filed to invest in equipment and personnel to provide a one stop clearing house for the development and training of our defenders, tactics, techniques, and procedures.”

A centralized location will save the Air Force millions of dollars and provide the opportunity to conduct joint training with the Army, Navy special forces, Department of Justice, Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, local and state law enforcement and criminal justice affiliates. More importantly it will ensure all defenders are trained to the same standard on all tasks and will be completely interoperable in deployed environments.

“Although we may be closing a chapter, we are opening a new chapter,” Robbins said. “We must look at the future to ensure our defenders are offered the most advanced training… We left a legacy, so every defender and ally could return home safely.”

At the end of the ceremony, Col. Erik Rundquist, chief of security forces, headquarters ACC, shared some words of gratitude for the devotion to the Airmen of the 99th GCTS.

“I can think of no better fitting tribute then to recognize this organization as its mission has ended here at Creech Air Force Base,” Rundquist said. “It is the agility and flexibility of our Airmen to adapt to new missions and meet new threats who have always been the hallmark of Silver Flag Alpha and the 99th GCTS.”

by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The Order of the Shield Detail presents the shield to the honor flights and attendees during an Air Combat Command Security Forces Order of the Shield ceremony Feb. 6, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The shield represents the defenders as the true shield of protection against attacks, and recognizes them for their contributions to security forces within ACC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen/Released)

The Order of the Shield Detail waits to present the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron commander with the honorary shield during an Air Combat Command Security Forces Order of the Shield ceremony Feb. 6, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The shield represents defenders as the true shield of protection against attacks, and recognizes them for their contributions to security forces within ACC. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen/Released)

The Order of the Shield Detail presents the shield to Col. Erik Rundquist, chief of security forces, Headquarters Air Combat Command, left, and Maj. Jesse Goens, 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron commander during the ACC Security Forces Order of the Shield ceremony Feb. 6, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 99th GCTS became the first unit to receive the award to date. The squadron is slated for inactivation March 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen/Released)

The 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron members present the colors during an Air Combat Command Security Forces Order of the Shield ceremony Feb. 6, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 99th GCTS is the first unit to receive the award which recognizes individuals or ACC units who have made significant contributions to security, training, and ground defense of ACC installations, missions, personnel, and resources. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen/Released)

Members of the 99th Ground Combat Training Squadron salute as the unit is presented with the Order of the Shield during the Air Combat Command Security Forces Order of the Shield ceremony Feb. 6, 2015, at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. The 99th GCTS is the first unit to receive the award which recognizes individuals or ACC units who have made significant contributions to security, training, and ground defense of ACC installations, missions, personnel, and resources. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen/Released)

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