SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Last month, the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing flew more than 600 sorties in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. Many of these missions involved flying into austere locations to deliver cargo and personnel to forward-deployed locations to aid in the fight against ISIS. Regardless of their hazardous surroundings, aircrew members must remain focused on their task at hand so that they can quickly perform their mission and return home.
In order to provide peace of mind to the aircrew, the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron provides Fly-Away Security Teams that protect both the aircraft and its crew during operations in austere locations.
“There are certain areas we go to that don’t have adequate security on the flightline so we have to go with (the plane),” explained Tech. Sgt. Jessica Cable, 386th ESFS assistant FAST program coordinator. “Once that plane lands, we pop out and provide 360 (degree coverage) because that’s our sole responsibility.”
Potential FAST members go through a rigorous process to be chosen for this important mission. They are selected based on demonstration of various characteristics such as self-motivation, leadership and discipline, said Tech. Sgt. Travis Patterson, 386th ESFS FAST program coordinator.
Unlike other security forces details that can sometimes include nearly 40 people, FAST missions typically rely on a smaller contingent, explained Patterson. To ensure success, team members rely heavily on each other to be responsible and to take initiative to get the job done.
Working within a small team requires interpersonal skills that go beyond verbal communication to include non-verbal communication expertise as well. They gain this knowledge through constant interaction with one another.
“We train together and do martial arts or physical training together so when we’re on the aircraft, we don’t even need to speak because we each know how the other is going to work,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan Malicki, 386th ESFS FAST lead.
This team dynamic is especially helpful when navigating around cargo and moving quickly to secure the aircraft in a hostile environment. There is little time to discuss plans at that point, and they must rely on each other’s training to overcome challenges.
“Going into a hostile environment never knowing what you’re going to encounter when you get off the plane I think is probably the biggest challenge,” said Patterson. “But we overcome that with our training. We have a job to do and we know what we’re doing.”
Ultimately, FAST units embrace these challenges and seek out opportunities to successfully complete their mission and to keep aircrews safe for missions now and in the future.
“Getting to fly is one of the greatest opportunities we get out here and even to post security for the aircrew is one of the bigger opportunities,” said Senior Airman Ryan Donato, 386th ESFS FAST member. “If I could get this opportunity again, I would for sure take it.”