On guard, through thick and thin

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jose L. Hernandez
  • Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs
There is no greater mission the U.S. Air Force entrusts in its Airmen than the duty of safeguarding its nuclear-capable assets.

For the security forces Airmen of the 91st Missile Wing at Minot Air Force Base, the responsibility of securing the wing's fleet of 150 Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles often takes them far into the remote and desolate areas of the North Dakota plains.

With a diverse group of security forces teams established by the wing to respond to any situation at any given time, their extensive safety measures demonstrate their duty is no joking matter.

Among the group of defenders are maintenance security escort teams assigned to the 791st Missile Security Forces Squadron, whose task it is to provide on-site security at launch facilities.

Senior Airman Summer Soards, 791st MSFS response force leader, explained that whenever missile maintainers need to go out to a facility to perform their job, a security team is required to be with them at all times.

"We authenticate all personnel entering a site," Soards said. "We coordinate with the flight security controller at the Missile Alert Facilities to ensure everything is all secure."

Site security is a top priority and only approved individuals can enter. Because of this, authentication at many levels is required.

Once on-site, the team conducts an initial visual assessment of the area looking for anything out of the ordinary or suspicious. They then coordinate with surrounding security response force teams to establish a site defense plan to formulate security perimeters and designate procedures should any security situation arise.

"We then will continue to monitor and patrol the area constantly," added Soards. "We are always checking in via radio with the security flight controller and the surrounding teams to let them know our status."

When speaking to the flight security controller, they have an authenticating procedure to ensure credible status of the site. Every precaution is taken with no exceptions.

The job becomes a much bigger challenge during the winter, when the high Dakota winds coupled with freezing temperatures come into play.

For Airman 1st Class Tavarus Roberts, 791st MSFS response force leader, the cold has its hardships but he understands the importance of the role delegated to him to maintain a secure site.

"It's tough when it's cold or raining but the mission must go on," said Roberts.

During extreme cold weather conditions however, Soards explained there are standard operating procedures which must be implemented to ensure their own safety and well being.

For these security forces Airmen, the days often last from dusk until dawn. This is especially true during days when ongoing maintenance is required at LFs and security forces members are required to be there for extended periods of times, sometimes up to 72 hours on site.

If weather allows, the escort teams will set up post with campers, which can be plugged in to provide heat and a place to rest. However, there is always somebody keeping guard and doing perimeter checks at all times though, said Soards.

Come what may, the men and women of the 91st MW security forces will always stand guard defending America's sword and shield.