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historical documents, photographs, films, videos, audio tapes,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
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
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
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
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.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday &
Friday: 8 am - 4 pm
Thursday: 9 am - 5:30 pm
Closed weekends and all federal
United States Air Force Security Forces
1300 Femoyer Street
Lackland Air Force Base, TX 78236