F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. --
Often times defenders are given the security forces job during basic training, but dream of a bigger and better job. Other times Hollywood clouds the reality of the job, but it is chosen due to aspirations of high stakes adrenaline while being deployed straight out of basic training.
Airman 1st Class Christopher Jackson, 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron defender, thought security forces was going to be like SWAT.
Upon arrival at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, Jackson learned he would play a part in the nuclear security mission of Air Force Global Strike Command. His day-to-day responsibilities are ensuring missile facilities and missileers, who operate the missiles, are safe from any situation, even rabbits playing in the field.
Currently, his job is nothing like SWAT.
“Even though I am not doing the job I envisioned, I am still in a valued position defending our operations here” said Jackson. “I am honored to do this job for my country.”
Jackson, like many other defenders, has found joy in the unexpected career.
“I’ve found a strong bond in my team,” said Jackson. “We are always together, so it is a good thing we enjoy each other’s company, and I look forward to going to the field because I know I am going with my friends.”
Although going to the field is enjoyable for Jackson, he also knows he has a duty to his country and his fellow defenders.
“I am a very free spirit, and I like to have a good time,” said Jackson. “When I am in the field I can’t cut up and have a party because it is the time to be serious and ensure the safety of the facility.”
Recounting a time while watching and evaluating other defenders go through a training course, Jackson was light heartily challenged to take on part of the course. Without hesitation, he jumped into the pit and began performing the proper maneuvers.
“I was just at the training for observation, it was not my responsibility to help or join,” said Jackson. “It is just my personality. If something needs to be done, I am the first one to jump in to help.”
With Jackson’s willingness to lead and having a stellar team to work with, it would seem obvious why he was chosen to be one of the representatives for Air Force Global Strike Command during the Defender Challenge.
The Defender Challenge is a competition with 14 security forces teams, all from major commands, plus troops from Great Britain and Germany. The purpose of the contest was to test Airmen in combat weapons, dismounted operations and combat endurance.
“Besides the fitness and marksman requirements for Defender Challenge, Jackson was chosen because of his attitude,” said 2nd Lt. Jonathan Rettig, 790th Missile Security Forces Squadron flight chief. “No matter what it is Jackson always carries that same ambiance about him and one of the best parts of having him in the flight is seeing how contagious he is to the Airman around him.”
As one of the youngest on the AFGSC team, Jackson felt like he had a lot to prove during the challenge, but knew he would not have been chosen if he was not ready.
“Some of the coaches on my team had prior combat experience,” said Jackson. “The coaches had experience in infantry tactics from being deployed. They are amazing, they have bronze stars, they are true heroes and there was so much to learn from them.”
Throughout the challenge at Camp Bullis, Texas, there were three components. The first was shooting and aiming.
“With much prayer, staying up at night, calling to guys asking for help, checking my aiming, controlling my breathing, putting on the aim site and doing everything I could,” said Jackson. “I made my shot, but it was not without heartache.”
The dismounted operations were the second challenge. Jackson recalls it being the most fun to go through but also the most stressful.
“We were on our feet for who knows how long, but long enough to make them hurt,” said Jackson. “What made it awesome was running through a mock village with smoke shooting up, explosions going off, and in the distance is the finish line with music blaring. Although we were exhausted, we couldn’t stop because blanks were being fired at us. We pushed each other to the end.”
Upon collapsing after the finish line, it was time for the teams to get ready for the final challenge, combat endurance and the closing ceremony.
With the challenge over, Jackson swears it was the best opportunity he has ever had and knows they don’t come around often.
“My flight at F.E. Warren was on top of their game when the opportunity for the Defender Challenge came up,” said Jackson. “Training and completing the challenge was absolutely incredible, and I want others to step out and consider opportunities like these that are presented to us because there is so much to learn and take away.”
Having had time to reflect on the past few months Jackson is walking away with more knowledge of the security forces world and a better appreciation for the job he has been given.
“This challenge taught me to be at ease within reason,” said Jackson. “I’ve always worried a lot, and I want things to run smooth. Now, I try to take things as they come. I still plan for situations and try to be ahead of the game, but now I don’t overstress.”
Jackson’s abilities in security forces did not come naturally, he has worked to get where he is today.
“In life very few things end up what we expected and security forces is no different,” said Rettig. “There will be many challenges that come with this career field, but as Jackson has demonstrated on the flight, it's not what you are or aren’t expecting it’s the attitude that you present and determination that you have going into something that determines what it can become to you.”