455th ESFS Reapers push out insurgents, keep Bagram safe

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) — Most ser­vice mem­bers deployed to Afghanistan have heard the alarm blare over the giant voice sys­tem that sig­nals incom­ing indi­rect fire to the base.

Staff Sgt. Steven Nace leads a secu­ri­ty patrol from the 455th Expe­di­tionary Secu­ri­ty Forces Squadron Feb. 10, 2012. The 455th ESFS “Reapers” con­duct 24-hour patrols to dis­rupt insur­gent activ­i­ties away from their base. The 455th ESFS is respon­si­ble for pro­tect­ing all activ­i­ties and free­dom of oper­a­tions for U.S. and coali­tion forces. Nace is assigned to the 121st Air Refu­el­ing Wing at Rick­en­backer Ohio Air Nation­al Guard Base in Colum­bus, Ohio. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. DeNoris A. Mickle)

While most peo­ple do their best to stay safe by tak­ing cov­er and wait­ing for the “all clear,” the Reapers gear up and head out­side the wire in search of those respon­si­ble for the attack. 

The Reapers are a quick-response team made up of an elite group of Air­men from the 455th Expe­di­tionary Secu­ri­ty Forces Squadron here. 

Not only do the Reapers respond to indi­rect fire attacks, but they also have teams that rotate shifts, trav­el­ing out­side the wire every day to per­form their duties and suc­cess­ful­ly com­plete their mis­sions. Twen­ty hours out of every day, there is at least one Reaper team on duty, work­ing tire­less­ly to enable air sor­ties through­out the area of oper­a­tion from the largest com­bat and logis­ti­cal hub and pro­vide sta­bil­i­ty with­in the Bagram district. 

“The mis­sion of the quick-response team is to defend Bagram out­side the wire through ear­ly detec­tion, deter­rence, response, recon­nais­sance and counter insur­gency, or COIN,” said Mas­ter Sgt. Troy Tay­lor, the QRT NCO in charge. “(Because of the Reaper’s efforts) our teams have been suc­cess­ful in dis­rupt­ing the insur­gent sup­ply chain. We have also seen a sig­nif­i­cant change in the dis­tance and accu­ra­cy of ene­my indi­rect fire.” 

In the past, insur­gents were capa­ble of fir­ing rock­ets to hit inside the wire or alarm­ing­ly close. With the help of the Reapers, the dis­tances they have to aim from are being pushed far­ther and far­ther away, reduc­ing their suc­cess rate of actu­al­ly hit­ting the base. 

As a part of the COIN mis­sion, the Reaper teams vis­it numer­ous vil­lages with­in the Bagram dis­trict where they meet local elders and chil­dren. The goal is to build work­ing rela­tion­ships and let them know they are here to sup­port them and help keep them safe. COIN also includes pres­ence patrols in high-threat areas and key ter­rain denial. 

“When we trav­el out­side to meet with the local Afghan peo­ple in the vil­lages, we want them to know that Amer­i­cans are good peo­ple and we want to help,” said Staff Sgt. Melis­sa McCam­mon, a 455th ESFS Reaper. “I think that it all starts with the chil­dren here. If we give them a good impres­sion of us as Amer­i­cans, we can plant that seed now and let it cul­ti­vate as they grow old­er; when they are adults they will remem­ber us as being kind and helpful.” 

Along with COIN, the teams’ mis­sion has numer­ous work­ing parts. 

“The teams con­duct counter sur­face-to-air patrols along approach and depar­ture cor­ri­dors and obser­va­tion posts in sus­pect­ed areas of pos­si­ble insur­gent activ­i­ty,” Tay­lor explained. “These actions help ensure the ene­my has no free­dom of movement. 

“To com­plete these mis­sions, Reaper teams are com­prised of dis­mount­ed patrol mem­bers and counter sniper teams,” the Colum­bus, Ohio native con­tin­ued. “They also have machine gun oper­a­tors and vehi­cle dri­vers to oper­ate the lat­est and great­est out­side-the-wire vehicles.” 

With­in the 455th ESFS, there are sev­er­al sec­tions with sig­nif­i­cant respon­si­bil­i­ty, but there’s some­thing spe­cial about a Reaper Airman. 

“Hon­est­ly, (the Reapers) are an exten­sion of our broth­ers and sis­ters at Bagram,” Tay­lor said. “Our job is to deny, dis­rupt and dis­perse known insur­gents oper­at­ing with­in Bagram Dis­trict. The skills that are need­ed for our mis­sion our taught and under­stood by every mem­ber of the 455th ESFS. The one dif­fer­ence being, our teams are iso­lat­ed from BAF and there­fore need to be able to endure the fight as oth­er patrols assist in destroy­ing the ene­my before they reach the airfield.” 

U.S. Air Force 

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