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On the road with the 627th Security Forces Squadron

Photo by Ingrid Barrentine Staff Sgt. Alex Inn, 627th SFS, drives past the Washington Air National Guard hangars on McChord Field Tuesday while on a patrol. Inn, who works the night shift, says airfield patrols are the main job of Security Forces Airme

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The 627th Security Forces Squadron Airmen patrol the flight line and streets of Joint Base Lewis-McChord McChord Field 24 hours a day, protecting both aircraft and base tenants from harm. They perform their duties with care and professionalism, according to the Department of the Air Force. A team of DAF inspectors awarded McChord's security forces an "excellent" rating during a recent unit compliance inspection.

The four-day inspection involved a top-to-bottom review of the unit's operations, training plans and administrative functions. Required every two years, compliance inspections are mandated by law and assess how well a unit is meeting Air Force-level standards and expected performance. Most units are found to be satisfactory, or meeting the standard. But it takes motivated professionals to be declared excellent, which puts them in the top 10 percent of all Air Force security forces squadrons.

"A lot of hard work was put into this - not just by a few, but everyone," said Staff Sgt. Michael Marcellus, an operations staff support NCO.

These aren't your ordinary cops. The unit's primary mission is to protect the McChord flight line and the 42 C-17 Globemaster IIIs used by the 62nd and 446th Airlift wings. A small contingent supports the joint base provost marshal by conducting basewide patrols with Army military police. Installation personnel needing weapons qualifications or combat arms training before deployment will see 627th Airmen at training ranges. And the unit's secretive Phoenix Raven program puts security forces on aircraft flying to locations where additional security is needed to counter local threats. It's a big mission with a lot of moving parts, carried out by 250 Airmen and civilians.

"Everything we do in our work is about becoming a team, and everyone backing up everyone," said Staff Sgt. Marcus Wheeler, a controller with the Base Defense Operations Center, and was recognized as an "outstanding performer" by the inspection team for his mission dedication and leadership.

The transition to a joint base made inspection preparations more challenging with several traditional functions related to police patrols falling under the new joint structure. When someone on McChord calls 9-1-1, for example, the Joint Base Emergency Control Center now gets the call and dispatches the police team closest to the emergency location. That could be an Army MP or an Air Force SF, Marcellus said. Managing all missions and traditional Air Force roles and requirements like base protection - whether still inspectable or not - took extra effort, but inspectors said the unit handled the challenge well.

"There were a lot of holes to figure out, but if there ever was a time for us to pull together as a team, this was it," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Prindeville, with the support staff for the 627th SFS.

The effects of deployments can also can make the difference between meeting the standard and exceeding it. Several members of the 627th SFS were deployed around the world supporting Overseas Contingency Operations during the monthslong inspection process. The unit's manpower presence varies with the operations tempo; many assigned Airmen are deployed at a given time, for example, but at times like now, most of the unit is back at McChord Field. Preparations were difficult while short-staffed, but units don't get "excellent" ratings without knowing how to adapt and overcome, said Staff Sgt. Michael DeGennaro, a quality control evaluator.

Quality control serves as one of the most important sections within the unit. Airmen like DeGennaro ensure that all servicemembers in the unit know how to do their jobs. He said inspectors checked to see if the 627th had properly documented all the certifications and validations required of a military police officer.

"Once these guys finish their training, we validate it and ensure it's performed well," DeGennaro said. "In preparation for the UCI, we provided sections the right processes to fix deficiencies so they will never happen again."

Because of the nature of police work and the level of trust needed between team members, Marcellus said the unit is more close-knit than others. That sense of camaraderie and trust gives the 627th members a good feeling that they will maintain that "excellent" score in future compliance inspections.

"You need to be able to trust the individual next to you, and if you don't have that trust, you don't have anything," Marcellus said.

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