History of the 820th Base Defense Group
Even before the tragedy of Khobar Towers in which terrorists used a
vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VIED) to destroy Air
Force barracks in Saudi Arabia, Brigadier General Richard Coleman,
Air Force Chief of Security Police, had been planning and designing
a model unit for air base ground defense better suited to the task
than existing Security Police units. A number of obstacles stood in
the way of realizing that design. First of all, every SP was tied
to a weapon system; i.e., a flying unit, a specific air base, a
weapons storage area, etc. No provision existed for an experimental
unit to be raised independent of such weapons systems; hence, the
plans and designs for what would become the 820th SFG remained
abstract until late in 1996 when Coleman combined personnel slots of
the Air Force Security Forces Agency at Kirtland AFB, NM, and the
Air Force Security Forces Air Staff at the Pentagon to form a
headquarters for a unit independent of a particular weapons system;
the 820th came into being based at Lackland AFB, TX, as a component
of the new Security Forces Center there.
This HQ stood up on 17 March 1997, but the component squadrons did
not. That was the second obstacle: where to obtain the personnel
slots to man those units? After Khobar Towers, fortunately, "force
protection" became an imperative for the Air Force and the Air Force
Chief of Staff, General Ronald Fogleman, got behind the realization
of the 820th. As a consequence, several MAJCOMs who had mission
changes where security forces manpower positions could be utilized
to form the assigned squadrons of the 820th SFG.
In the beginning, the 820th had seven flights scattered around the
country; one each at Eglin AFB, FL, El Paso Air National Guard
Base, TX, Lackland AFB, TX, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, McGuire AFB, NJ,
Westover Air Reserve Base, MA, and Vandenberg AFB, CA. These
flights came together to form a squadron when the HQ teams deployed
for contingencies. At the outset, Coleman brought in Lt Col Larry
Buckingham to command the group and oversee its formation and
training. Together they designed and assembled a diverse collection
of Air Force specialists, not all Security Forces, necessary to the
proper defense of an air base. In addition to Security Forces, the
unit also had personnel from the Office of Special Investigations,
civil engineering, logistics and supply, communications,
intelligence, administration, personnel, and the medical career
fields--twelve AFSCs in all. Never before had an air base defense
unit enjoyed the close cooperation of so many specialists. From
March 1997, the group and its seven geographically separated
flights trained and became operational. On 1 August 1999,
Detachment 1, 820th SFG stoodup at Moody AFB, Georgia to
plan/execute the move of the group HQ staff from Lackland AFB TX and
to beddown and build three new security forces squadrons. On 14
March 2001, the official stand up of the group occurred at Moody AFB
GA and the group moved to Air Combat Command (ACC).
While at Moody, it has been assigned to ACC under 9th Air Force as a
direct reporting unit. On 18 August 2006, it was assigned to the
347th Rescue Wing. On 31 October 2006, it was reassigned to the
23rd Wing where it remained until 25 January 2008. On that date, it
was reassigned to the newly formed 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing.
Meanwhile, group squadrons were deployed to Iraq during Operation
"Iraqi Freedom" where it earned two Air Force Outstanding Unit
Awards; the first, awarded on 13 August 2003 included a combat "V"
device. The second was awarded on 23 January 2007. The group's
deployments are too numerous to list all, but here follows the most
significant of them:
1. Operation "Bright Star:" Egypt, Nov 1997, Nov 2002, Dec 2007.
2. Operation "Desert Thunder:" Bahrain, Kuwait.
3. Operation "Desert Fox:" Qatar, Dec 1998-Jan 1999.
4. Operation "Southern Watch:" Djbouti, Kuwait, Feb-Jan 1998,
Sep-Dec 2000, Jan-Nov 2002.
5. Operation "Noble Piper;" Kenya, Apr-May 1999.
6. Operation "Shining Hope:" Albania, 1999.
7. Operation "Enduring Freedom:" Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Bahrain,
Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Djbouti, 2002 and continuing.
8. Operation "Iraqi Freedom:" Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Jan 2003-Dec
9. In support of POTUS: Columbia, Bolivia, Jul-Sep 2004, Dec
2004-Jan 2005, Dec 2005, Feb 2007.
10. Joint Task Force "Katrina:" Aug 2005.
11. Operation "Willing Spirit:" South America, Feb-Mar 2008.
12. Operation "Southern Partner:" Latin America, May 2009.
13. "United Response:" Haiti, 2010.
In March 2009, the 820th Combat Operations Squadron
(COS) stoodup which provides the operational training, equipping,
and organizing support to the three assigned operational squadrons.
The manpower was formed from the large group staff leaving the group
HQ with the AF traditional group organizational structure.
The squadrons deploy as units, usually to forward operating bases (FOBs)
or main operating bases in combat zones. In training or support
roles, they function as the Air Force commanders (COMAFFORs)
decide. At the time of this writing (March 2010), the 823rd is in
Haiti while the 822nd and 824th are at Moody for reconstitution and
To provide a sample of combat operations, a news story tells us that
while in Iraq, the 823rd SFS was posted to Balad AB adjacent to the
Baghdad municipal airport. The base suffered numerous stand-off
attacks by rockets and mortars which required a concerted effort to
end. For the first time since Vietnam, security forces moved
outside the base perimeter and sought out the terrorists.
Early in 2005, "Operation DESERT SAFESIDE" was the result and
harkened back to the SAFESIDE operations of the Vietnam era. During
the 60 days of the operation, the 823rd mounted 338 combat patrols,
56 sniper insertions, 26 direct action patrols, and 131 hasty
During these actions, the 823rd captured seventeen "high value"
persons, discovered eight caches of munitions, and confiscated one
hundred heavy weapons. Consequently, attacks on the base diminished
Today, the 820th SFG and its squadrons form what is called a "Base
Defense Group" based on a document just signed by the Air Force
Chief of Staff (i.e., "Base Defense Group Enabling Concept"); note
the new designation for the 820th. No longer a Security Forces
group, it will become the first Base Defense Group (BDG) in the Air
Force. The document provides a detailed program, not only for the
820th, but for other such units in the future. Here is a statement
from that document:
“ BDG Role in AEF Steady-State Missions. Deployed operations tempo
for the BDG is extremely high. While the BDG is best suited for
operations at airbases where threats are considered "high," or when
the uncertain nature of the operating environment makes the threat
difficult to predict and assess, BDGs also respond as a force
protection enabler supporting Air and Space Expeditionary Force
(AEF) steady state rotations. BDG forces may be presented as force
modules and can be tailored in various package sizes dependent on
the mission tasks. The entire BDG, including the headquarters
element and all its squadrons, may be deployed to secure one Air
Expeditionary Wing (AEW). BDG squadrons may also be deployed
individually to provide a specialized ground defense capability.
Planners should attempt to vector BDG steady-state taskings towards
deployments requiring its specialized capabilities”.
The BDG composition consists of a headquarters element, a Combat
Operations Squadron, and three or more operational squadrons that
can be tailored to meet the mission need. BDG FP elements may be
characterized as a decidedly small, highly trained, mobile fighting
force, with heavy light/medium firepower, organic intelligence
surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and strong leadership.
In July 2009, the CSAF signed an initiative total force partnership
which designates the 105 Security Forces Squadron, at Stewart ANGB,
NY to be aligned to support the 820th SFG/BDG. The
squadron provides personnel to the 820th to support
steady state missions and all personnel will be trained to the same
standards as the group.
Thus, 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 commanders and Chiefs of the 820th SFG/BDG are listed below:
•Col Larry Buckingham
•Col Dale Hewitt
•Col Ronald Newsom
•Col Eric Pohland
•Col John Decknick
•Col Donald Derry
•Col Randall Richert
•Col Paul Kasuda
|•CMSgt Bruce Broder
•CMSgt John Hummer
•CMSgt Richard Hackney
•CMSgt Randall McCormick
•CMSgt Dennis Vannorsdall
|•CMSgt Richard Parsons
•CMSgt Tommy McDaniel
•CMSgt Artie Pearson
•CMSgt Samuel Johnson