CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico --
Only a handful of units within the Air Force have the privilege of wearing a beret, Security Forces being one of them. An emblem of a falcon watching over an airfield is exhibited on the front of their dark-blue beret with the motto ‘Defensor Fortis’ underneath, meaning ‘Defenders of the Force.’
That maxim perfectly defines the mission of Security Forces but for someone not familiar with the career field, it might leave questions as to what all their responsibilities encompass.
According to the official Air Force website, Security Forces specialists are responsible for missile security, defending air bases around the globe, law enforcement on those bases, combat arms and handling military working dogs.
Protecting every single Airman, employee and asset of the Air Force is no small task, hence the reason behind Security Forces being the largest career in the branch. Their non-stop hours of operation are matched only by their continuous training on becoming better law enforcers.
Some of the most important training they conduct pertains to keeping the roads everyone travels on safe from any type of danger, to include intoxicated drivers.
Recently, 12 Security Forces members attended the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 24-hour class on Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. The class, led by Gary Rhode, 27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron training superintendent, aims to increase an officer’s ability to perform a proper sobriety test when pulling over possible drunk drivers.
“This type of training focuses on the prevention, deterrence and ultimate changing of behavior of the public’s attitude toward driving under the influence,” Rhode said. “Officers trained in SFST administration make for a strong prosecution case against the defendant.”
Utilizing what they learned in the class, the 12 trainees then perfected how to administer a correct sobriety test on actual intoxicated volunteers in a controlled environment.
“The volunteers for this training included officers and senior non-commissioned officers,” said Senior Airman Chase Cincis, 27th SOSFS member and alcohol overseer for the training. “We determined the amount of alcohol each participant would drink in a two-hour period according to a NHTSA chart, which based alcohol consumption amount off of their body weight.”
After the two-hour drinking period, the six participants had a 20 minute deprivation period in which they did not consume any other liquids or food. Rhode then had each volunteer perform a Breathalyzer test to determine their blood alcohol content level as a basis before bringing in the trainees began administering their tests.
Two trainees were assigned to each volunteer to take turns conducting a sobriety test while the other assessed the level at which it was conducted according to a SFST checklist. Rhode oversaw each group to assist in perfecting each officers’ routine during the simulated situation.
“Officers are determining if the driver is suitable to continue driving,” Rhode said. “They are looking for clues of impairment established by extensive scientific studies, approved by International Association of Chiefs of Police and approved by NHTSA.”
The officers had the volunteers perform as series of tasks testing motor skills like balancing on one foot and walking in a straight line while simultaneously assessing their mental sharpness with concise counting and answering of questions.
“Based off all the information witnessed by the officer, they would make the determination to arrest or not arrest,” Rhode explained.
It is this type of authentic training that will directly correlate to real-world situations of Security Forces members keeping drunk drivers off the roads and ultimately, providing safer travel routes for everyone. Their commitment to improving all the necessary skills they need as a law enforcement professionals is why they get to wear berets and why they are entrusted with protecting the protectors.