Airmen Serve as Defenders, Good Will Ambassadors
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The sun rises on an empty field outside an entry control point as a few defenders prepare their gear and equipment for the day. By mid-morning the field becomes filled with nearly 400 Afghan locals all waiting to process through that ECP at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
For the bravo sector entry controllers of the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Group, this is a five day a week operation.
There are two medical entry control points located on BAF for all patients needing clinical care. American and Afghan guards partner in both defending the gates and managing clinic admission.
With their rifles slung, security personnel pick up biometric scanners and clipboards to get patients one step closer to needed medical care. Afghans of all ages come to the Korean and Egyptian hospitals here seeking medical care provided by a true multi-national effort.
Trained Airmen using current technology gives Afghan locals in need of assistance a chance to receive a higher standard of medical care. Members of the 455 ESFG know that their mission is very important in building that bond with neighboring villages.
"We take great pride in our Airmen because they have a tough job," said Capt. Schneider Rislin, 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Group officer in charge. "Making the local Afghans feel welcomed and still providing security is a hard balance to achieve."
Each Airman is hand-picked by leadership to be a member of the ECP defenders. Their role is especially important not only as defenders but as ambassadors for the United States as the first face the Afghan locals see.
"The bravo sector security controllers show their fortitude day-in and day-out," said Master Sgt. Thomas Carpino, 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Group bravo sector superintendent. "No matter what happens that day, they come prepared and ready for the next day's mission."
With just an iris scan and fingerprints, the defenders can gather biometric information from each patient. But some of the most important security measures are done outside the ECP with an eyes-on and hands-on check, similar to those used by security at an airport.
"Airmen these days are skilled in several pieces of technology when it comes to scanning the human body, but they are always ready to defend with their tactical training," said Carpino.
For some of the local Afghans it is not just the promise of medical care that has them waiting in long lines outside the ECP, but the free vocational programs offered. These student programs include hands-on training to learn basic automotive, electrical and computer skills.
Another program that draws families with children ages 13 and under is the "Cat in the Hat" program. The children learn to read and write in English and get a chance to interact with other members of the airfield.
The reward of working as a defender at these medical ECP's is not over at the end of the duty day. Airmen like Staff Sgt. John Silvia, 455th bravo sector NCOIC, not only gets a sense of pride from his job but feels he is directly affecting the hearts and minds of the local Afghan community.
"Being a security forces member here at Bagram, there is not a whole lot I can tell my family back home," said Silvia. "But with this mission I can tell them today I helped people."