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Security Forces Airman rises to the challenge while deployed

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Adam Crown and Staff Sgt. Zachary Hassay
  • 43rd AW PAO
The first time deploying to a hostile country can be nerve-racking for any individual. Airman 1st Class Jonathan Hogg, assigned to the 43rd Security Forces Squadron, recently deployed with a 13-man team from Pope to Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

During Airman Hogg's deployment, he and his team were assigned to the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Group and tasked to the North Entry Control Point to the installation. While assigned there, Hogg worked 12-hour night shift rotations with 21 other personnel for six nights a week.

"The mission our team was tasked with was to maintain security and monitor the area for the north sector of the installation," said Airman Hogg. "Additionally the team conducted day to day operations at the north entry control point ensuring only authorized individuals and vehicles are granted access onto the installation."

Despite Airman Hogg's lack of experience and rank, his superiors appointed him to the position of desk sergeant, a position normally tasked to noncommissioned officers. Without hesitation, Hogg stepped up to the challenge.

"The specific task I was appointed was to monitor all telephonic and radio communications throughout the north sector, record and plot all incidents to include indirect fire attacks and suspicious activity and dispatch all response forces as directed," said Airman Hogg.

During one incident "outside the wire," Airman Hogg and his team were dispatched to involved suspicious individuals compromising the security of the north sector by removing sections of concertina wire and fence line. Airman Hogg's team responded, detained the individuals and reestablished the security of the area.

"Airman Hogg never hesitated to act and was extremely reliable and able to handle any task thrown at him," said Tech. Sgt. Stacey Polu, flight chief assigned to the 43rd Security Forces Squadron.

While deployed, the 43rd Security Forces Airmen were faced with significantly different challenges and responsibilities than while assigned at Pope.

"The major difference of the mission while deployed was that the primary focus of our mission was security rather than our law enforcement mission while stationed at Pope," said Airman Hogg.

With the extreme focus on security came their slogan, "No bombs on base!" While deployed, the 43rd AW Airman ensured zero security infractions throughout the north sector. This gave Airman Hogg and his team a sense of unparalleled pride.

"Despite the extremely high threat and indirect fire received on an every-other-day basis, our team never faltered," said Airman Hogg.

When Airman Hogg was not on duty, he enjoyed many of Balad's recreational facilities. In his spare time, he would undergo physical training at the fitness center, spend time at the full-sized Olympic swimming pool or watch first-run movies in the base movie theatre. Regardless of the leisure activities available, the threat was always a constant. Hogg described just how real the threat is on a daily basis.

"One evening, while off-duty, we received an indirect fire attack within fifty feet of our location," said Airman Hogg. "Upon hearing the first explosion, my supervisor and I immediately hit the ground while another hit nearby. Finally the counter-rocket, artillery and mortar system engaged and shot down the last of the devices."

Hogg was able to witness the entire incident from his position.

During the deployment, the 43rd Security Forces Airmen witnessed first-hand the impact of the transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn.

"I felt the greatest sense of accomplishment during the deployment overall with the role I and my fellow Airmen played throughout the transition," said Airman Hogg.

After the transition, several changes occurred at Balad Air Base for example, the closures of the Iraqi Bazaar and the vast majority of the other small shops. However, the most significant change seems to be the change in responsibility of security.

"The most significant impact we experienced during our time there was after the change. Our quick reaction forces could no longer respond outside the wire unless we were specifically requested by the Iraqi forces," said Airman Hogg.

Airman Hogg's advice to all first time deploying Airmen is simple. "Pack what you need, pack light and ensure all of your finances and other affairs are squared away before your departure."