Defense

February 20, 2013

Tracker airmen protect Bagram

Tags:
SSgt. David Dobrydney
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan

SSgt. Craig Ritter and 1st Lt. Joshua Loomis move into position to place ground sensors for an enemy movement and detection training scenario Feb. 14, 2013 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The team uses a series of search techniques from simple eyes-on to ground sensors to track insurgent activity and provide site exploitation after an attack. Ritter and Loomis are 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Reaper team trackers.

A group of airmen from the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron is combining the old school skills of tracking with modern technology to bring a new capability to the fight.

“It stemmed from a lot of research in preparation for our deployment,” SSgt. Benjamin DeSantiago said, a 455th ESFS Reaper team tracker. “We thought instead of just simply conducting routine base defense … why not actually attempt to find the insurgents right on the spot.”

DeSantiago credits his team’s officer-in-charge, 1st Lt. Joshua Loomis, with gaining approval from leadership for the team to learn the necessary skills. The three-man team would eventually arrive at the tactical tracking operation school on Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

“We informed the president of the school of our mission and told him what our needs were in preparation for our deployment,” DeSantiago said, “(and) he tailored the school solely around air base defense to help us out.”

When the airmen first arrived for training, they did indeed think there were going to be playing cowboys.

TSgt. John Dolbee, Staff Sgt. Ben De Santiago, 1st Lt. Joshua Loomis, and Staff Sgt. Craig Ritter emplace ground sensors for an enemy movement and detection training scenario Feb. 14, 2013 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The tracker team members are all deployed from the 822nd Base Defense Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. Dolbee, DeSantiago, Loomis and Ritter 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Reaper team trackers.

“We thought we would end up putting our ears to the ground and listening to the winds for signs of our quarry,” DeSantiago recalled.

However, the primitive was soon merged with the modern.

“(The instructor) taught us the proper emplacement of unattended ground sensors,” DeSantiago said. “By using these sensors and emplacing them in areas of interest we can focus our patrols.”

By the time of their arrival on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, the tracker airmen were ready to put their skills to the test.

“Whenever there is an attack, we act as a quick response force,” DeSantiago said. “We are always on call. We go out with the responding team and assess where the insurgents came from and where they went to by tracking the ground spoor (indicators of a human presence), aerial spoor and any ground sign left behind.”

Tech. Sgt. John Dolbee and Staff Sgt. Ben DeSantiago connect a power source to a ground sensor for an enemy movement and detection training scenario Feb. 14, 2013 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The team uses a series of search techniques from simple eyes-on to ground sensors to track insurgent activity and provide site exploitation after an attack. Dolbee and DeSantiago 755th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Reaper team trackers.

While trackers can be found in the Army, they are rarer in the Air Force, a fact these airmen are proud of.

“The instructor informed us that there were only a handful of us in the Air Force that he pushed through his course as certified U.S. Army trackers,” DeSantiago said.

On the other hand, having a special mission can bring its own set of challenges.

“There are only three of us certified and our capabilities are unique and new, especially to the base defense mission,” DeSantiago said. “So we are learning a lot and improving daily.”

However, those that would seek to do harm should beware. The trackers recently completed their first mission, investigating a specific area for insurgent activity.

“We reconned the whole area,” Loomis said, ” … looking for vehicle tracks, footprints, trash left behind, so we could limit the search to a specific focus.”

Having identified multiple trails that could be used by insurgents, the trackers placed their sensors and will augment them with cameras if the sensors yield results.

Loomis added that the trackers are training other security forces airmen to expand the number of teams that can go out on future missions.
“We have plans in place to utilize this skill set,” Loomis said. “We’re pretty excited.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Betty R. Chevalier

New interrogation system installed on AWACS, more in pipeline

Air Force photograph by SrA. Betty R. Chevalier An E-3 Sentry AWACS from Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., prepares to land May 16, 2015. AWACS have the capability to detect enemy as well as friendly aircraft at great distances usi...
 
 
Army photograph by SFC Walter E. van Ochten

U.S., Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria train together at Rapid Trident 2015

Army photograph by SFC Walter E. van Ochten U.S. soldiers, of the 3rd Platoon, 615th Military Police Company, 709th Military Police Battalion, react as they conduct reacting to contact training as part of their situational trai...
 
 
Army photograph by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt

Estonian, US forces receive new jump wings

Army photograph by Sgt. Juana M. Nesbitt Pvt. Kalmer Simohov, of Parnu, a volunteer with the Estonian Defense League, receives his U.S. Army Airborne wings following the joint airborne operations exercise at a drop zone in Nurm...
 

 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Thomas Spangler

Red Flag offers B-52 crews training that ‘can’t be beat’

Air Force photograph by A1 Class Rachel Loftis A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 69th Bomb Squadon, Minot Air Force Base, N.D., taxis for take off during Red Flag 15-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 15. The B-52 is a ...
 
 
navy-decommission3

Final West Coast frigate, USS Gary, decommissioned

Navy photograph by POCS Donnie W. Ryanl The guided-missile frigate USS Gary (FFG 51) arrives at Naval Base San Diego after completing its final deployment before decomissioning. During the seven-month deployment Gary operated i...
 
 
Air Force photographby A1C Mikaley Towle

‘Thunder’ rolls at Fort Irwin

Air Force photographby A1C Mikaley Towle An Airman assigned to the 22nd Special Tactics Squadron, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., observes as an A-10 Thunderbolt II circle before landing in support of Green Flag West 15-08.5 o...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>