Utah Air Guardsmen support SECDEF visit in Iraq

  • Published
  • By Maj. Krista DeAngelis
  • 151st ARW/PA
During their six-month deployment to Iraq, members of the 151st Security Forces Squadron recently had an opportunity to flex their real-world planning and security skills during a high-level visit by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The SECDEF was in country to meet with the U.S. Ambassador and representatives of the Iraqi government to discuss the future of Iraq and the role the U.S. will play in that future.

"During his visit, our security forces members helped defend the perimeter of the base, searched personnel and vehicles entering the base, provided close personnel protection, provided security for the Secretary's aircraft using military working dogs, walked patrols and patrolled the area in armored Humvees," explained Lt. Col. David Meyer, 151st SFS commander.

Planning for the SECDEF's visit was no easy task, and communicating certain information proved somewhat challenging.

"Distinguished visitors of this level of importance require layered security, and layered security plans require multiple planning sessions and dry runs and multiple contingencies. Details of a visit are kept classified and on a need-to-know basis, so the lack of information released to squadron members increases the difficulty in planning," said Colonel Meyer.

More than 70 security forces members from various units supported the visit, and coordination with representatives from DoD, Department of State and the U.S. Army was essential to mission success.

Overall, the visit went very well and no incidents occurred...which for security forces equals success, added Colonel Meyer.

"An event like this is good for the morale of the squadron," he continued. "Our members felt like they were players in world events and in history."

Staff Sgt. Ryan Demille, a 151st SFS member, was excited to be a part of the mission.

"I was a fire team member who helped secure the sterile area on the flightline for the arrival and departure of the SECDEF. It was neat to be involved with the security of such an important leader," he said.

More than 30 members of the Utah ANG's 151st SFS deployed to Iraq in February 2011 to assist air base defensive forces in support of Operation New Dawn. During the deployment, Utah Guardsmen have been involved in a variety of missions that have helped hone their skills as well as those of their Iraqi counterparts.

"Our deployment is going very well and our members have been involved in everything from base defense to training members of the Iraqi Air Forces to planning the transition of Sather Air Base when the United States is set to leave Iraq in December," said Colonel Meyer.

Master Sgt. Keith Bocage, who is also deployed from the 151st SFS, said that the best part of the deployment has been knowing that his job is important and that that he is making a difference with the Iraqi Air Force.

"I enjoy the challenges I've faced here and I feel like I'm gaining unique experiences that will make me a better member of the Utah Guard. However, this deployment wasn't quite what I expected. It's been hard being away from my family...and not having all the conveniences we take for granted at home. But I enjoy the work and how busy we are which makes the time go by faster," he said.

Members of the 151st SFS are scheduled to depart at the end of summer, and hope they can make a difference during the remainder of their deployment.

"I am extremely impressed with the professionalism and dedication of the members of this squadron," said Colonel Meyer. "It's very obvious that these great defenders want to be here and want to make a difference while they are here. Seeing our folks work, train and play with members of the Iraqi Air Forces, even some who we have fought against, is very inspiring. It is obvious from the many hours spent with them that our members want this country and these people to succeed."