SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Senior Airman Mike Garrison runs a mile during the Emergency Services Team try-outs March 30, 2011. Airman Garrison is a member of the 4th Security Forces Squadron and hails from Lexington. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Gino Reyes)(Released)
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- 4th Security Forces Airmen low crawl during the Emergency Services Team try-outs March 30, 2011. The Airmen were competing for a slot on the newly formed EST team, a unit within the 4th SFS who will recieve specialized training on first responder tactics and procedures. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Gino Reyes) (RELEASED)
SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. - Tech. Sgt. Randall Mello and Staff Sgt. Mark Price do push-ups during the Emergency Service Team try-outs March 30, 2011. Sergeants Mello and Price are members of the 4th Security Forces Squadron. (U.S. Air Forces photo/Senior Airman Gino Reyes)(Released)
by Senior Airman Marissa Tucker
4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
4/7/2011 - SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- Airmen from Seymour Johnson paid homage to all past and present defenders as they competed for a spot on an emergency response team March 31.
On the last and arguably nastiest day of March due to weather conditions, 13 defenders competed in a grueling competition for a spot on the newly formed Emergency Services Team. The elite squad of security forces Airmen will receive specialized training on the successful resolution of high risk situations, said Tech. Sgt. Randall Mello, 4th Security Forces Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of plans and training.
"The EST is the military equivalent to a civilian Special Weapons and Tactics team, where defenders will receive specialized training and be imbedded into the various flights," he said. "I am really excited to see this come back. It's part of the security forces heritage."
Emergency Services Teams require the best of the best, due to the severity of the situations they may be called to neutralize.
"Tactical proficiency is a top priority for all defenders," said Chief Master Sgt. Jennifer Kersey, 4th SFS superintendent. "Being able to provide 4th Fighter Wing leadership with the most tactically proficient force is a priority for Maj. Jim Alves [4th SFS commander] and I. In preparing for EST tryouts, we encouraged Sergeant Mello, the EST team leader, to challenge our Airmen and ensure we are able to neutralize any threat to the personnel and resources assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. This training opportunity highlights the need for a dedicated response force to meet our commander's intent."
Sergeant Mello, a career security forces Airman is well rounded in the field and has attended Federal Air Marshall school, Army Air Assault school, Republic of Korea Ranger school and Phoenix Raven training. He is eager and prepared to train and lead a new generation of defenders to excellence.
"What makes the re-formation of this team here so important is the history behind it," Sergeant Mello said. "When I was new in the Air Force, it was an honor to be a part of an EST. It's what defenders strived to achieve. We want to do that for our Airmen here because they deserve every opportunity available."
The EST is a capability that must be quickly available to the base's security forces, said Maj. Jim Alves, 4th SFS commander. Currently, the base relies on the Goldsboro Police Department and Wayne County Sheriff's department to provide a SWAT team, should the need arise.
"By standing up an EST internal to our squadron, it would assist in providing that quick capability. Additionally, it ensures the team is fully aware of the additional emergency response resources we already have available on base," Major Alves said. "Having an EST available gives those Airmen who would like to hone their tactical response and weapons training an avenue to do so. While I expect excellence out of my entire squadron, having an EST also allows my Airmen to receive that training, so they are able to perform above and beyond their peers."
The defenders competing for a spot on the team completed a four-part challenge including a one-mile run, with the last part of the run in a gas mask, an obstacle course including a low crawl made even nastier due to the weather, timed sit-ups and push-ups, a shooting course at the combat arms training and management range and lastly, they had to take down a "perpetrator," played by NCOs in the squadron.
Emotions were high among the competing Airmen. During the safety briefing, some could not wait to begin and others looked a bit wary of the situation. But when the call came to begin, all doubts were wiped away as each defender grabbed their rubber M-16 and walked out into the rain to begin.
Senior Airman Hanna Kim, 4th SFS patrolman, had her game face on early as the only female defender in the group.
"I wanted to do this to show that not only males can do this," she said. "Women can do this too."
Gender was of no issue in the selection of the EST, as all defenders were given the opportunity to compete for the team and completed the same course. By the end, after being soaking wet and freezing for almost two hours, all participants seemed relieved it was over and also gave an air of camaraderie, as they cheered each other on until the finish.
"I really wanted to do this to do something different, and just to see if I could," said Senior Airman Rafael Figueroa, 4th SFS patrolman. "I think most of us are here to just support each other."
In total, all 13 Airmen who competed made the team, which is in its infancy as the 4th SFS is preparing and creating training opportunities to create the best EST in the Air Force.
"I'm proud of all of my defenders for what they do every day, however the defenders who tried out for the base's EST really brought the fight today and simply blew me away with their dedication," Major Alves said. "Though my defenders who went through the tryouts think it was the toughest thing they have ever done; to me that's the easy part. The real tough part will be the continual training they are going to have to go through to ensure the wing commander has a fully-capable EST able to bring the fight to any base adversaries."