Innovation leads 56th SFS to Air Force-level award

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Senior Airman Ross Cordova, 56th Security Forces Squadron Defense Force member, poses May 7, 2020, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The 56th Security Forces Squadron earned the Headquarters Air Force 2019 Best Medium Security Forces Unit Award. The squadron won for its innovations and efforts such as implementing a 360-degree virtual reality system to enhance training; fitting tactical vests to individuals with gender specific options; and, being a test unit for the Security Forces Center’s Squadron of the Future initiative. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Leala Marquez)
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The 56th Security Forces Squadron at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., earned the Headquarters Air Force 2019 Best Medium Security Forces Unit Award for their groundbreaking and innovative ideas.

Throughout the past year the 56th SFS implemented Air Force and Major Command firsts, setting them apart from all other units Air Force wide.

The squadron competed for the award against other medium-sized Air Force SFSs with 126 to 230 personnel. According to Capt. Richard Cordova, 56th SFS Defense Force Operations officer, the achievement was guided by foundational portions of their vision statement “Provide a combat credible integrated defense force through the mastery of core competencies.” He added that it was executed through following their mission statement: Train. Defend. Fight.

Luke’s Defenders set themselves apart in many ways including implementing a 360-degree virtual reality system, enhancing tactical training; fitting tactical vests featuring gender specific options to individuals; and being a test unit for the Security Forces Center’s Squadron of the Future initiative aiming to enhance professional development, mentorship and unit cohesion.

Cordova said one of their most innovative ideas was the test of the Base Operational Support-Team. “It’s a team from [the 56th Medical Group] that is chaired by a physical therapist and on his team he has a data specialist, mental health specialist, nutritionist and a personal trainer dedicated to our unit.”

Cordova explained the BOS-T embeds itself within security forces to understand body stressors that are unique to the career field and develop specialized workouts and nutrition plans to ensure defenders are mission ready. They have also provided tailored physical therapy interventions, and mental health resources co-located within the unit.

Senior Airman Ross Cordova, 56th Security Forces Defense Force Member, and Tech. Sgt. Jose Martinez, 56th SFS Defense Force day-shift flight sergeant, participate in a 360-degree active shooter virtual reality simulation. The 56th Security Forces Squadron earned the Headquarters Air Force 2019 Best Medium Security Forces Unit Award. The squadron won for its innovations and efforts such as implementing a 360-degree virtual reality system to enhance training; fitting tactical vests to individuals with gender specific options; and, being a test unit for the Security Forces Center’s Squadron of the Future initiative. (Air Force photograph by Senior Airman Leala Marquez)

The 56th SFS also participated in a first of its kind weapon of mass destruction emergency response exercise. The event integrated many agencies including an emergency team from the D.C. area, local law enforcement and regional explosive ordnance disposal teams.

“This year there was a national-level exercise chaired by the highest levels of government,” Cordova said. The scenario involved an emergency response to an improvised weapon found in the local area. Emergency evaluators planted an inert, simulated device, generating a national response from multiple agencies, and the 56th SFS played a key role in responding to it, he explained.

This prestigious accolade was the product of the work done by everyone in the squadron, said Senior Master Sgt. Donald McKenzie, 56th SFS Defense Force Operations superintendent.

“It’s a testament to the hard work of every Airmen, NCO, Civilian Defender, SNCO, and officer throughout this talented unit,” McKenzie said. “Our guys go out, they are eager and hungry to do their jobs and they do it well.”

Many of the new initiatives implemented at the 56th SFS can be applied Air Force-wide, Cordova added.

“This year really makes me excited to see where we’re going as a career field,” Cordova said. “We’re focusing heavily on investing in our people and the payoff is going to be huge in the future. What I see happening is when the SNCOs, NCOs and officers here go to their next assignments they’ll take lessons learned and specific strategies for implementation to other units.”

McKenzie explained that Luke’s Defenders will move forward from this award looking toward the future.

“I would like [for us] to continue to move forward and become technical experts in every position that we have and get better as a unit,” McKenzie said. “We set the bar high but now we need it to be higher. We’re going to keep moving forward to develop our Airmen and work for team cohesiveness.”

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