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820th Base Defense Group celebrates 20 years

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Sprunk
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Moody’s defenders, past and present, and distinguished guests gathered March 27 to 29 to celebrate the anniversary of the only active-duty Air Force base defense group.

The anniversary commemorated 20 years since the activation of the 820th Base Defense Group, formerly known as the 820th Security Forces Squadron, and allowed guests to reminisce on their history, honor those they’ve lost, and walk through a tactical demonstration.

“One of the things that makes the 820th so unique is the desire that its members have to come back and serve or just to come back and visit,” said Col. Kevin Walker, 820th BDG Commander. “It’s unlike any other group I’ve ever seen. Our Airmen have grown a bond that in many regards is stronger than family.

“I hope [that during this reunion,] those that are 820th alumni are able to find pride in seeing and interacting with the group that they’ve helped build.”

Attendees began the celebration with an opening ceremony where retired Brig. Gen. Richard Coleman explained how he transformed what started as an idea written down on a bar napkin into the first ever base defense group.

From there, guests went to a wreath laying ceremony where they honored the lives of the four Airmen they have lost since the group’s inception: Airman 1st Class Leebernard Chavis; Staff Sgt. Todd Lobraico, Jr.; Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lemm; and Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa.

“[These Airmen] laid down their lives because they believed that everyone else’s tomorrows are worth more than their todays,” said Walker. “[For that,] we honor them for their courage, for their sacrifice, and for the American, the Airman and the defender that they are.”

After the ceremony, the 820th BDG recognized distinguished guest and retired Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. John Jumper, by dedicating a conference room in honor of him. Jumper also re-enlisted Staff Sgt. Scott Shirley, 824th Base Defense Squadron NCO in charge of plans and programs.
Guests ended their day by watching a tactical demonstration where 820th BDG Airmen showcased their strategies, weapons and ability to work as a team with each section that makes up the 820th BDG.

“The BDG composition consists of a headquarters element, a combat operations squadron, and three operational squadrons that can be tailored to meet the mission’s need,” said Senior Master Sgt. Justin Geers, 824th Base Defense Squadron operations superintendent. “The 820th continues to evolve to fulfill the integrated base defense mission, as its predecessor, the combat security police of the Vietnam era, did.”

The tactics of the 820th BDG began in South Vietnam when highly successful guerrilla attacks compelled the Air Force to transform the standard practice of airbase ground defense into an aggressive defense force capable of detecting and stopping attacks on the base from outside the wire. Designated Operation Safeside, the new initiative required new techniques to create the “active defense” concept which proved to be successful.

The Safeside legacy returned with the activation of 820th Security Forces Group. The Group was activated March, 17, 1997.

In the beginning, the group had difficulty finding the manpower needed to form the assigned squadrons of the 820th SFG. The group had seven flights scattered around the country who would come together to form a squadron when the headquarters teams deployed for contingencies.

From March 1997, the group and its seven geographically separated flights trained and became operational,” said Geers. “On August 1, 1999, Detachment 1, 820th SFG stood up at Moody to plan and execute the moves of the group Headquarters staff from Lackland AFB, Texas, and to bed down and build three new squadrons.

On March 14, 2001, the official stand up of the group occurred at Moody and the group moved to Air Combat Command.

The 820th Base Defense Group provides planning, training, equipping and preparation of three security forces squadrons today. They are the only global ‘first-in’ force protection unit to provide fully-integrated, highly capable and responsive forces to protect overseas contingency operations around the globe at a moment’s notice.

“[This reunion allows] attendees to hear and see the past, present and future of the BDG,” said Walker. “They will see how the action of the past has created today’s BDG and how today’s BDG is preparing the way and setting the road for tomorrow’s BDG.”