United States Air Force Security Forces Museum

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas
 



 

 
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The United States Security Forces Museum (previously called the USAF Security Police Museum) was established on November 5, 1979 to honor all Active Duty, Reserve, and Retired Air Force Security Police personnel to preserve the history and heritage of the career field. The Museum is located on Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas and is supported by the Security Forces Museum Foundation.

This museum is the only one in the world that tells the Security Police historiography. The Museum’s Archival Repository contains historical documents, photographs, films, videos, audio tapes, magazines, newspapers and military memorabilia.

The Museum welcomes visitors to come and visit the "home" of the Army Air Corps Military Police, USAF Air Police, Security Police and modern day Security Forces and discover their history and heritage.

The Security Forces career field has a long, rich history which predates the inception of the Air Force in 1947. The invention of the aircraft and its subsequent military use required a protective force to guard the aircraft and defend the people who fly and fight.

In early 1943, the first Army Aviation Military Police Companies were established from existing Army MP units. The USAF Security Forces lineage can be traced to its beginning in WWII with the German blitzkrieg. Blitzkrieg relied on swift attacks by land and air. One of the tactics employed by blitzkrieg was the use of paratroops and airborne forces to capture, or destroy in advance, air bases.

A key turning point in air base defensive thinking came with the loss of the island of Crete to German forces and the subsequent capture of the British air base at Maleme in 1941. This single action led then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, to study British air base defense policy and in a condemning memo to the Secretary of State for Air and to the Chief of the Air Staff dated June 29, 1941, Churchill stated he would no longer tolerate the shortcomings of the Royal Air Force (RAF), in which half a million RAF personnel had no combat role. He ordered that all airmen be armed and ready “to fight and die in defense of their air fields” and that every airfield should be a stronghold of fighting air-ground men and not “uniformed civilians in the prime of life protected by detachments of soldiers.” Churchill's directive resulted in formation of the RAF Regiment.

On February 12, 1942 the United States adopted the British air defense philosophy. It was then that the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, approved the order that formed the Army Air Forces (AAF) air base security battalions. Units were deployed throughout the European, Asian and African theaters and designed to defend against local ground attacks. These units were armed with rifles, machine guns, and 37-mm guns. The Initial planned was for 296 air base security battalions. However, as the Allied air and ground superiority grew, the need for these units dwindled and by 1943, many of these units were being inactivated and by 1945 all AAF air base security battalions were closed.

The National Security Act of 1947 established the current United States Department of Defense or DoD and formed the United States Air Force from the Army Air Forces as a separate service. MP units serving with the Army Air Corps before this separation were transferred to the Air Force. The Army-Air Force agreement of 1947 stated that “each department will be responsible for the security of its own installations.”  On January 2, 1948, General Order No. 1 from Headquarters USAF designated those transferred units and personnel as "Air Police" (AP). On 1 September 1950, the first Air Police school was established at Tyndall AFB, Florida.

In June 1950, the Air Force began a buildup for air base defense due to the outbreak of the Korean War. The center of this buildup was the expansion of the Air Force Air Police from 10,000 in July 1950 to 39,000 in December 1951. Still, one year into the war, the Air Provost Marshal reported that “the Air Force is without policy or tactical doctrine for Air Base Ground Defense.” In haste, Air Police serving as the cadre of this force were outfitted with armored vehicles, machine guns, and recoilless rifles. Air base defense was officially implemented by Air Force Regulation 355-4 on March 3, 1953, and defined air base defense “as all measures taken by the installation commander to deny hostile forces access to the area encompassing all buildings, equipment, facilities, landing fields, dispersal areas and adjacent terrain.”

In 1952, the Air Police school was transferred to Parks AFB, California and redesignated as the "Air Base Defense School" to emphasize on air base defense capabilities. It soon became evident the emphasis on air base defense was not making much headway. On October 13, 1956, Air Police training was transferred to Lackland AFB, Texas where it evolved into Security Police training and eventually became the US Air Force Security Forces Academy.

On November 1, 1964, Vietnamese Communist (VC) troops attacked Bien Hoa Air Base with six 81-mm mortars positioned about 400 meters north, outside the air base. The VC fired 60 to 80 rounds into parked aircraft and troop billets then withdrew undetected and unabated. The attack killed four US military personnel, wounded 30, destroyed and/or damaged 20 B-57 bombers. U.S. air bases had become targets and became routine targets thereafter. The Air Force was not allowed to patrol the perimeter of  their bases. That role was left up to the Vietnamese Air Force. Also, the U.S. Army was cited as being tasked to control the security of the area around the air base and after action scrutiny along with politics served to foster distrust and jealousy between services, chains of command and the U.S. and Vietnamese services. As a result, air bases in South Vietnam were left vulnerable. By striking at USAF air bases the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and VC employed Giulio Douhet's military concept which stated the only effective way to counter air power was to destroy its bases on the ground. This concept has also been proven effective during the Indochina War, from 1946–1954, when the Viet Minh regularly attacked French air bases and were successful.

The USAF Sentry Dog program was a product of the Korean War. By 1965 the USAF had a pool of sentry dog teams available for deployment to South Vietnam. Nightly at every air base, sentry dog teams were deployed as a detection and warning screen in the zone separating combat forces from the perimeter. Nearly all air base defense personnel agreed that the Sentry Dog Teams rendered outstanding service. Some of which went as far as to say “Of all the equipment and methods used to detect an attacking enemy force, the sentry dog has provided the most sure, all inclusive means”.

In response to the threat to air bases, the Chief of Staff initiated the Safe Side Program under the Seventh Air Force, creating an experimental 226-man unit, the 1041st USAF Police Squadron (Test), trained in using the M-16 rifle, M-60 machinegun, and air base ground defense tactics. After their TDY deployment to Vietnam in the first half of 1967 to field test the concept, the Safe Side participants were used as instructors and cadre for future units. All were oriented toward US Army Ranger operations, much of which did not necessarily directly apply to Air Base Ground Defense, such as long-range recon/ambush, land navigation, stream crossing, and rappelling.

In 1966, the name of the career field was changed to "Security Police" (SP) and the basic Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC) from 771XX to 811XX. The term was considered descriptive, concise and uniformly applicable as it combined two main mission elements: Police and Security functions.

In 1968, the Air Force accepted the Safe Side Program's recommendation to establish 559-man Combat Security Police Squadrons (CSPS) organized into three field flights. Three CSPS were incrementally activated, trained and deployed in 179-day TDY rotations to South Vietnam. On March 15, 1968, the 821st CSPS began a hasty training program at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii and was in place at Phan Rang Air Base on its TDY deployment by April 15. The 822nd CSPS was organized, more completely trained, and replaced the 821st in August 1968. The 823rd CSPS was trained at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and replaced the 822nd in March 1969, remaining until August 1969 when it was replaced by the 821st. Troop ceilings on forces in South Vietnam did not permit permanent assignment of a CSPS until December 1969, when the withdrawal of U.S. forces was in progress. Safe Side was discontinued and the two CONUS units inactivated. Reduced to 250 personnel, the 821st CSPS remained in-country until February 1971, when it too was inactivated. Over time, the Air Force Security Police would hone their ground combat skills and tactics based on these initial squadrons and lessons learned in combat.

In March 1971, the security police career field was split into two separate functions: Law Enforcement and Security specialties. Law Enforcement personnel provided the typical "police" response to safeguard personnel and property while Security personnel performed duties associated with physical security, the flight line and weapons storage areas. The standard issue sidearm for Security Police was the Smith & Wesson Model 15 Combat Masterpiece in caliber .38 Special with a 4-inch barrel, firing M41 .38 ball ammunition. Security Forces train for 13 weeks.

As threats to the world security changed, so did the requirements for security police to better respond to worldwide contingencies and protect Air Force resources. Specialized fields with single skills could no longer meet AF needs. Consequently, Air Force Chief of Staff directed SP staff to reorganize the entire career field. In April 1997, three distinct career fields or Air Force Specialties (Air Force Specialty Code - AFSC) merged to become "Security Forces" (SF). Security Specialist (AFSC: 811X0), Law Enforcement Specialist (AFSC: 811X2) to include Military Working Dog Handler (AFSC: 811X0A), and Combat Arms Training and Maintenance (AFSC: 753X0). Upon completion of the merge, all SF personnel were reassigned AFSCs. The current AFSCs are as follows: Enlisted (3P0X1), MWD/K-9 (3P0X1A), CATM (3P0X1B), and Officers (31PX).

Female airmen were first introduced into the Air Force's law enforcement career field in 1971. An all male career field since its inception, the Security Police did not accept this innovation easily. However, since women had been serving in civilian police forces for several years, these women were quickly integrated into the field.

As more women were trained and as they proved themselves capable of wider application in the career field, it became apparent that they had interests well beyond law enforcement.

The first women dog handlers came into service in 1973; and the first women entered the corrections field in 1974.

It was 1973 before the first female commissioned officer, Lt. Sally Kucera, was graduated from the Basic Security Police Officer's Course.

By 1976 the number of women in the career field had risen from 198 to 1,280 or to almost 4% of the force. Clearly, a dichotomy existed where the Security Police officer was concerned. The split career field affected only the enlisted force.

As a retired Air force member, I can appreciate the service that our Security Forces have performed. They protect our resources from all threat areas. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the museum.


Operations:
 
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday:  8 am - 4 pm
Thursday:  9 am  -  5:30 pm
Closed weekends and all federal holidays


United States Air Force Security Forces Museum
1300 Femoyer Street
Lackland Air Force Base, TX 78236

 

Check out more pictures of the USAF Security Forces Museum

 

 

 

A Tour of the USAF Security Forces Museum

   

 

   

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