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Air Force's top cop visits Expeditionary Center
Brig. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, Air Force Director of Security Forces at the Pentagon, talks with security forces Airmen training for upcoming deployments during her visit to the U.S. Expeditionary Center on Fort Dix, N.J., on March 26, 2009. General Hertog also gave a presentation for the Expeditionary Center's Professional Development Speaker Series observing the center's 15th anniversary. The speaking engagement was also teleconferenced to 15 locations Air Force-wide to include Japan, Germany, Nevada, Texas, Illinois, Hawaii and California. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Nathan G. Bevier)
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Air Force security forces director tours expeditionary training; discusses career field issues

Posted 4/1/2009   Updated 4/1/2009 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Paul R. Evans
U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center Public Affairs

4/1/2009 - FORT DIX, N.J. -- On March 26, Air Force Director of Security Forces Brig. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog visited the U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center.

During her visit, she took time out to answer questions about what she saw while visiting the center and to update Airmen on the status of the security forces career field. The following are the questions and answers from that interview.

Question: During your visit, what have you seen and learned about the Expeditionary Center that impresses you the most?

General Hertog: "First off, this is my first in-depth visit with the EC. I have to say that what I'm impressed with the most is the professionalism of the cadre of instructors and their enthusiasm and motivation. You can really tell these folks love to do what they're doing and it's across the board. It's not just one functional area but all of them -- from officer to enlisted. 

I'm also impressed with the scope of training you do here. I know what (the EC) does for security forces because I've asked you to do that, but I was not aware of all the other training you do for the other Air Force specialties such as Advanced Contingency Skills Training. I also didn't know that your courses gave Airmen Community College of the Air Force credits, which I think is outstanding!"

Question: As a past security forces squadron commander, how do you view the quality of training the Expeditionary Center and it's 421st Combat Training Squadron have been providing to deploying security forces?

General Hertog:  "Let me talk to you about not just squadron command, but I've had the honor of also being a group and a wing commander for a training group and a training wing. I can speak to that with a unique perspective. I love training, I have a passion for training and I think the 421st is doing an outstanding job. We don't do enough training in the Air Force in my book. And I can speak as a former security forces squadron commander three times over that there's always an excuse somebody can come up with for not training. They'll say, 'Oh, we're working twelve hour shifts,' or 'We're working too hard,' or this or that. You've got to train. That's the bottom line. I can see it's taken seriously here by everybody involved and I think you're doing an outstanding job."

Question: What is your vision for the security forces career field, and in particular, the vision for expeditionary training for security forces?

General Hertog: "I have a couple things wrapped up in my vision. First is nuclear security. We're doing some nuclear security training that we've never done before. The bottom line is to regain credibility as part of the Air Force nuclear enterprise. We want to make sure that we know what we're doing when it comes to the nuclear enterprise, and that everyone must do an outstanding job everyday.

"My other focus of course is on expeditionary training. I don't see our expeditionary role going away anytime soon. It may diminish a little but I don't see it going away in a big way. I have to be ready to make sure that all of our security forces members are ready to go out the door, regardless of the mission, properly trained.

"The one thing we're doing now more and more is outside the wire. We have more Airmen -- more cops -- outside the wire than we have ever had in the past. We have anywhere from 600 to 700 out on a daily basis in the (deployed) area of responsibility in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places. Our security forces (expeditionary) training has got to be focused for that as well as for irregular warfare.

"As security forces, we are doing a lot. We're doing Police Transition Team training which trains Iraqis to secure their own nation as police officers. We have Airmen serving on Provincial Reconstruction Teams. PRTs, which besides cops have many different Air Force specialties, are building up the infrastructure of countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. In order to help them out, you have to provide security for those teams and our Air Force security forces are doing just that.

"We're doing so much outside the wire and so much in irregular warfare that I've started to re-vector my basic training for security forces Airmen and officers in that direction. That's my overall vision."

Question: Since Sept. 11, 2001, security forces operations tempo has sky-rocketed. Because of that, have you noticed a large attrition rate in first- and second-term security forces Airmen due to that increased tempo?

General Hertog: "I track attrition all the time. That's what keeps me up at night. Right after Sept. 11, right after we started the surge, our Zone A retention rate was close to the Air Force average. You want to have about a 55 percent retention rate of your first-termers because you've got to grow a force. From 2004 or 2005 to now we've gone from about 45 percent to 32 percent retention for Zone A (first-termers). 

(Editor's note: Zone A refers to first-term Airmen serving their first four- or six-year enlistment.)

"I know why and there are two reasons. It's not just because we're so deployed, but that's a big reason. Folks are tired. I have Airmen I have visited in theater who have apologized to me because they're going to separate when they return. It may be because they're married to somebody else on active duty. They may be a single parent or their spouse may have said, 'Hey, enough is enough. You need to be home.' I can't offer them the predictability and the stability they need. It's been one of my goals since I've been the director to work towards that predictability and stability and we're doing many things to achieve that.

"The other reason is our cops are highly marketable. They come in, they're disciplined, their trained, they have the right clearances and they're drug free. I actively have people recruiting security forces members for law enforcement jobs. I've had that since I was a squadron commander. Our cops are in great demand! That's a growing business for the Department of Homeland Security, Drug Enforcement Administration -- you name it. You've got those skills where you can go. Coming out of the military gives you great credibility. Many police departments are willing to waive somebody who doesn't have a four-year degree if they've got military experience.

"So it's two things that we're trying to fight and that's the marketability and deployability of our Airmen and the fact that they're tired. I realize they're tired. I can't offer them an end-state to say that, 'Hey, you get to this point and you're not going to deploy.' I have more colonels and chiefs deployed now more than I've ever had in this career field. I also have, and this is to me a huge sign of success, about 23 chiefs out as command chiefs and 19 colonels out as either wing, vice wing, or group commanders in the Air Force. We're growing them up and out to do other things. To me that is a sign of success that we have done an outstanding job with these folks."

Question: With technology comes the technologically-smart Airman. What kind of leadership advice can you give the new NCOs and even the senior NCOs to deal with this new generation of Airmen?

General Hertog: "I think we need to be consistent. We need to be back to basics. The fact that we have great technology now and folks that are coming up that are more technologically apt than perhaps maybe you and I were should not make one bit of difference.

"I think you have to be an analog in a digital world. People spend way too much time, in my opinion, on electronic mail and not enough time out walking their areas of responsibility getting to know their Airmen. We should not have people who get counseled by e-mail, it should be face-to-face. Nor should we be fired by e-mail -- it needs to be face-to-face. If somebody is out there doing something wrong, they need to know it by you looking them in the eye and saying, 'You have not lived up to my standards, but here's what you can do to correct that.'

"Just the same reason, somebody should not have praise heaped on them by e-mail. They should be trotted out in front of everybody and congratulated for doing that and getting that kind of affirmation with their peers. Leadership doesn't change. Your basics of leadership will not change. I don't care how much technology you bring in.

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