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178th Augmentee program steps up to defend the base

  • Published
  • By Story by Staff Sgt. Amber Mullen
  • 178th Wing

In 2020, our nation faced an era of great uncertainty. A global pandemic plagued nations worldwide. Many countries went into lockdowns while frontline workers worked tirelessly to control the spread of the virus. America was not spared as the virus swept across the states. In the midst of battling a deadly virus, civil unrest unraveled. Protesters speaking out against injustice took to the streets to have their voices heard. In order to provide relief efforts for the pandemic and help maintain order in response to civil unrest, the National Guard was called to assist local and state agencies.

The 178th Wing was no exception to this call. In 2020, the Wing provided support in many different capacities. Whether it was assisting the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction or aiding law enforcement agencies during civil unrest, the Wing played a vital role in COVID-19 relief efforts and civil unrest response efforts throughout Ohio.

And the 178th Security Forces Squadron played a major role in these missions. Security Forces Airmen’s first call to duty this past year came through supplementing correction officers in prisons throughout Ohio, but their tasking did not stop there. On May 30, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine activated Ohio National Guard members to provide support to law enforcement agencies in response to civil unrest. Where 25 SFS personnel deployed to Columbus, Ohio to assist local law enforcement with site security, traffic control points, and protecting critical infrastructure. In September, the squadron was called on again to provide security at the presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio.

As 2020 wrapped up and with 2021 on the horizon, excitement for what the New Year would bring was widespread. Just a few days into the New Year, the nation experienced another unprecedented event. On January 6, 2021, supporters of former President Donald J. Trump stormed the Nation’s Capital building to disrupt the democratic process of certifying the election results.

With the upcoming 59th Presidential Inauguration, approximately 25,000 National Guard troops from across the nation were activated to provide additional security in the Capitol. Within in the next few days, the troops made their way to Washington, D.C. With anticipation of protests being held at state capitols nationwide, governors also called on their National Guard members to provide security stateside.

Again, 22 members of the 178th Security Forces Squadron were activated to provide additional support to law enforcement at the State Capitol in Columbus, Ohio in the days surrounding and on Inauguration Day.

“Our Airmen were assigned to Ohio State Highway Patrol Mobile Field Force squads that were staged in three different locations throughout the State Capitol area awaiting the need to respond to civil unrest,” said Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Distel, the operations superintendent assigned to the 178th Security Forces Squadron.

Working alongside the Ohio State Highway Patrol gave our Airmen the opportunity to protect their community and ensure citizens could voice their opinions peacefully.

“It was pretty cool to be a part of history,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Wilson, the unit training manager assigned to the 178th Wing. “We want to be involved and contribute in any way possible. Our mission was to be there and to just see that First Amendment rights were protected and that everyone had the ability on whatever side to participate safely. We were thrilled to be a part of that and contribute.”

While our defenders answered the State’s call to duty, the Wing’s augmentee program stepped up to ensure the base was properly secured during the defenders’ absence.

The augmentee program is a volunteer based program, ran by the Security Forces Squadron, which trains members across the Wing on how to protect the base. They are trained on use of force, how to challenge a threat, handcuffing, searching and clearing buildings, less than lethal training and weapons qualification with the M-9 pistol.

“The overall purpose of the augmentee program is to identify, track, and train individuals to help supplement Security Forces for manning during high risk events or deployments, or stat tours,” said Tech. Sgt. Steven Snyder, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the augmentee program. “They are a contingency plan for critical incidences or a need for an increase in force protection.”

Since its creation three years ago, the augmentee program has not been called on to activate. This however, changed when the augmentee program was called upon to defend the base while members of our Security Forces Squadron assisted in Columbus.

With only a short notice, the augmentees worked 12 hour shifts, alongside SFS defenders, at the gate and in patrol vehicles to ensure proper security for the Wing.

“We spent some time on the gate and we had some time on patrol and clearing buildings,” said Senior Master Sgt. Sandra Bowden, a Security Forces augmentee. “I loved being able to help out. It makes me appreciate their job so much more and what they are doing.”

Through the help of the augmentees, the Security Forces Squadron was able to answer their State’s and Nation’s call to duty to cover a historic mission while also ensuring their mission at the Wing remained intact.

“I loved the fact that I was able to allow more forces to go forward where they were needed,” said Bowden. “I could help maintain security here at the base and make sure that if anything did happen here, that we had a show of force and we could handle it ourselves.”

The augmentees played a vital role in ensuring base security and thanks to their help and support, the Wing was able to make an impact on the community at the State and National level.

“The augmentees have been critical, without them, a few of our defenders would not have been able to participate in something with such magnitude with such far reaching implications should things go wrong or right,” said Distel. “It’s been a weight off my shoulders. Having the augmentees step up and help out allowed me to go to Columbus where I was needed and gave me the peace of mind that we have enough bodies. From an operational superintendent perspective, the augmentees were critical. I can’t speak highly enough about the program and the group we currently have and their willingness to keep volunteering and help out.”