914th Security Forces: Securing Success
By Airman Andrew Caya, 914 AW
/ Published February 03, 2008
NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION, N.Y. -- --
914th Security Forces Squadron members of a six-month deployment to Iraq returned to Niagara recently. They were flown in via a Niagara C-130 from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to the base. The troops were met by family and friends along with an American Legion Color Guard.
Lieutenant Colonel James Lawson, the 914th Security Forces Commander, who also returned from deployment several weeks earlier, was among the 18 airmen of the 914th Security Forces Squadron and said they were very successful on their latest deployment to Kirkuk, Iraq.
The responsibility for base security at Kirkuk has been turned over to the Air Force Reserve.
The 914th secured many operations that were going on in and around Kirkuk, said Lawson.
The primary mission for the base is training the Iraqi Air Force, and will be their primary training base for pilots.
The goal is for the Iraqis to take over the base, who eventually will run the functions that the U.S. is currently running, the commander added. "Every U.S. Air Force specialty was represented there, because essentially all of those folks will be training their Iraqi counterparts on how to do their jobs and basically build their air force from the ground up," said Lt. Col. Lawson.
"One of the more interesting things is that their pilots in training have very different backgrounds. Sunni, Shiite and Kurd, are all in pilot training together, which is real important because they need to start working with one another" said the commander. We definitely saw them working together while we were over there, it's a very positive thing, Lt. Col. Lawson said.
The deployment did not start out as a quiet mission. August held the most attacks in Kirkuk's history. "By the time we left it was the quietest months they ever had. From November 18th until January 10th, we didn't have a single attack and a lot of that can be attributed to the Iraqi Police," the commander said.
"The Iraqi forces are becoming much better. They're stepping up and I do believe the Iraqis are trusting the U.S. forces a lot more and working together with us. It's huge proof that in the short time that I have been over there, the security has improved a lot," Lawson said.
Securing the personnel, property, perimeter and the gates was our mission there, said Senior Airman Timothy Wolf, who returned with the latest group of airmen. "The mission went well, nothing got across the wire," he added.
Many distinguished visitors felt safe with the security provided at Kirkuk. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice came there on a visit, said Lawson. Senators John McCain, Charles Schumer and Army General David Petraeus also stopped by at different points during their deployment, said Lt. Col. Lawson.
"The Airmen from the 914th were right on the wire, supporting the Army's 10th Mountain Division by delivering intelligence through patrols of the base inside and outside the wire," said Lt. Col. Lawson. "The Army would engage the Iraqis based on the intelligence our guys gave them," the commander said.
"One night there was an Iraqi pick-up truck that had been modified to launch rockets onto the base, our guys picked up on it and the Army went out engage the enemy," said Lt. Col. Lawson.
The security forces commander said he was proud of the way his troops handled themselves during the six-month deployment.
"The Niagara guys were very professional. It's not an easy job, it's a tough job, but they were out there, day in and day out for six straight months. I was proud because they were reliable and I heard nothing but good things from the different supervisors and NCOs who had Niagara personnel working for them, and that was the highlight of the deployment for me," added The Commander.
"It wasn't just this group that recently came back that I'm proud of, but it's all the Niagara Security Forces. Niagara has been steadily supporting this location and I see us continuing to support it in the future," said Lt. Col. Lawson.