440th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
POPE AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. “We were the first unit in the wing to respond to 9-11,” said Lt. Col. Kent Hansen, a Reservist who commanded the 440th Security Forces Squadron in the months following the 2001 terrorist attacks. “Our Reservists were on base within minutes – long before any recalls were implemented. They left their civilian jobs and families for a higher calling.”
The 440th SFS reservists’ commitment and loyalty would be called upon again and again in the next seven years across the world to support the Global War on Terrorism, and continues today at Pope Air Force Base, N.C.
In the days following 9-11, the unit mobilized under presidential order in support of homeland defense under Operation Noble Eagle. The SFS was also the first unit in the wing to deploy in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
“Our specialized security teams under the Phoenix Raven program deployed in September 2001,” said Maj. Timothy Martz, who served as the squadron’s commander in Milwaukee through January of this year. “These teams supported Raven missions throughout the war theater under U.S. Central Command.”
Tasked to Air Mobility Command, SF reservists supported missions in 21 countries in 14 days, providing aircraft security as the U.S. ramped up its forces.
Five SF reservists deployed in support of Operation Fundamental Justice, providing en route security for battlefield and Taliban detainees from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
As the war continued, more 440th SFS Airmen would deploy on Air Expeditionary Flight rotations in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other Southwest Asian countries. They also supported specialized security forces missions in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Central Asia.
“We provided significant support to Central Command’s Joint Security Protective Detail Missions,” said Major Martz. “Our reservists provided personal protection to CENTCOM commanders like Generals Tommy Franks and John Abizaid as the leaders moved throughout the war theater.”
According to Colonel Hansen, the protective security detail teams frequently traveled beyond the Middle East to locations like Russia and Australia. “Wherever the CENTCOM commander went, our Reservists went to protect him.”
In contrast, Master Sgt. John Drossel served primarily in one location as a cadre instructor at the Iraqi Military Police Academy, Tadji Military Training Base in Iraq.
Sergeant Drossel, a 440th Reservist with more than 27 years of service, said his 2004 assignment is particularly memorable because of the international relationships he built and unity from serving with other Americans in an overseas location.
“I became friends with a number of students at the school, and acquired a better understanding of the culture and history of Iraq,” he said. “I also gained new friendships with other servicemembers from the Naval Air Station in Fort Worth, Texas, and Kirkland Air Force Base, N.M.”
Major Martz, who deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries for more than seven months, said his most memorable experiences are working with special forces in austere locations in Afghanistan, and conducting major combat operations with special ops forces in Baghdad and Al Anbar Province in Iraq.
Back in Milwaukee, activated reservists conducted security operations for an unprecedented number of presidential visits.
“We received a great number of accolades for our work with the White House staff and communications agency, Air Force One, Marine One and U.S. Secret Service,” said Major Martz. The unit also provided homeland security for Air Force bases throughout the nation as active duty counterparts deployed overseas.
Colonel Hansen said SF Airmen never balked at their calling. “The response to 9-11 by 440th SF was one of overwhelming volunteerism,” he said. “As the unit’s commander at the time, I never had to ask for volunteers; I always had a long list of people committed. Our work since 9-11 validates the squadron’s mettle and intestinal fortitude. And we continue to see it evidenced today.”