COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
At the 14th Flying Training Wing, Columbus Air Force Base’s 14th Security Forces Squadron works around the clock to protect, defend and provide police services to enable mission success.
Approaching an Air Force base or any military installation for the first time will bring you face to face with a defender.
Their motto is, “We defend … day and night.” This first impression can set the tone for the duration of a visit as well as the overall impression of the Air Force.
“You can make or break someone’s day just by how you first interact with them as they enter the gate,” said Maj. Shawn Redmond, 14th SFS Commander. “At the gate, you are their first impression and the face of the Air Force. That is in my opinion, the best job in the Air Force.”
Defenders not only keep the peace and uphold the law on base, but also provide services ranging from criminal investigations to traffic violations.
“The most visible defenders you see are our guys performing access control at the gate and visitor center,” Redmond said. “Then we have the law enforcement side. Anything happening outside the gates in Columbus, Caledonia or Starkville could be happening here too. Our defenders respond just as Lowndes county police would do.”
Another section of the 14th SFS is the Military Working Dogs.
“Our mission is to supplement and support the 14th SFS by providing MWDs who can help protect our community,” said Staff Sgt. Karl Stefanowicz, 14th SFS Kennel Master. “Our dogs are patrol and detectors, they can go out and help apprehend suspects if the situation requires force. They can locate a suspect in hiding and they often support vehicle inspections.”
Although defenders do not participate in law enforcement outside the gate, they do interact with the local community by providing the local police force with their MWD and handlers as the mission allows. Security forces also partners with downtown police and FBI for different types of training.
“The kennel we use for training our dogs is one thing our local police do not have,” Redmond said. “We invite them on to train their dogs. As we have four explosive [smelling] dogs and the community has one, we often get called asking for support if there is a bomb threat in the area.”
The culmination of all these jobs are what the defender may face every day fulfilling their duties and the 14th FTW’s mission.
“Our mission is the wing’s mission, to Produce Pilots, Advance Airmen and Feed the Fight,” Redmond said. “Those planes do not take off without our guys on the ground doing their part to support that mission.”