Security Forces Squadron is ready to support Texans (2 of 4)

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: June 9, 2016

An Air Force medic searches mock patients for harmful objects as they are brough into from local medical facilities during a state-level Hurricane evacuation exercise June 09, 2016, at the Valley International Airport, Harlingen, Texas. Any weapons found are given over to the security forces officers from the 149th Security Forces Squadron. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
An Air Force medic searches mock patients for harmful objects as they are brought into from local medical facilities during a state-level Hurricane evacuation exercise June 09, 2016, at the Valley International Airport, Harlingen, Texas. Any weapons found are given over to the security forces officers from the 149th Security Forces Squadron. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

HARLINGEN, Texas – Providing safety and security during emergency situations is something the Security Forces Squadron takes with pride. The 149th Security Forces Squadron tested their battle skills during a support mission in Harlingen, Texas, June 2 – 9, 2016.

“In a real-world setting, when people are about to encounter a natural disaster, they are often in a state of panic and not always with a sound mind,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Joseph Paulino, non-commissioned officer in charge of the 149th SFS, and head of training, based out of Lackland Air Base, San Antonio, Texas. “As law enforcement we are trained to help calm situations down and identify possible hostile individuals.”

Service members the Texas Army and Air National Guard, Texas State Guard and U.S. Air Force participated in the event. The exercise mirrored a Category 5 Hurricane that required emergency medevac and general population evacuations from the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The mock patients were transported from Valley International Airport through military and civilian aircraft.

Airmen from the security forces squadron worked with local law enforcement and helped pull security around the airfield, just as they would in a real world situation. Having the extra security allows medical personnel and key leaders the ability to run their operations with safety.

“We maintain the perimeter and help give them the assurance that we are here to protect them, as well as the patients, and anyone else that comes in and needs us,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christina Richards, a security forces officer with the 149th.

During the exercise, mock patients were brought in from local medical facilities; they were searched using a metal detector for any harmful objects. 

“We have two guys up front, medical will search the patients and if they do find an individual with a weapon they will let us know and provide that extra care,” said Paulino.

Being a hurricane veteran, gives Paulino the knowledge and experience to know how to lead his Airmen as well as build fostering relations with the local community.

“When I was in the Guam unit, I actually came out for hurricane Katrina and they were assisting disaster relief so it’s definitely a possibility,” said Paulino. “So being able to practice this as an exercise, helps build rapport with local agencies so they know what their role would be and can run a more fluid operation.”

Although this is Richards’ first mission as a security forces specialist, she is not new to the security world.

“I grew up around the fire department and cops so it was kind of destined growing up,” said Richards. “It’s like second nature because I’ve been around it all my life.”

Exercises like these give Texas guardsman and other service members the ability to practice their job skill and be prepared to help their fellow citizens when, and if, a real world disaster occurs.

“I’m happy to be down here to serve not only my country, but my state of Texas and provide a presence down here where military is not that prevalent, said Paulino. “I like engaging with the local populace and building that rapport around them.”

This is 2 of 4 Texas Hurricane Preparedness series.