ABDULLAH AL-MUBARAK AIR BASE, Kuwait, April 17, 2018 —
Over the past few months, the 387th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron has increased joint security operations through host nation cooperation here, where a large-scale, temporary cargo facility is under construction.
U.S. forces are working with their Kuwaiti counterparts to move aerial port operations to Cargo City, a previously undeveloped area adjacent to an available ramp at the Kuwait International Airport.
Since both the Kuwaiti air force and U.S. military coalition are temporarily located there until the new West Al-Mubarak Air Base is complete, it provides a strategic opportunity to work closely with host nation counterparts while implementing essential changes to security operations and procedures.
Air Force Lt. Col. Vanessa Schoon, the 387th ESFS commander, said the new construction provides an opportunity to review and implement these measures, which meet both coalition forces and host nation needs, strengthening a mutually functional and cooperative relationship.
“I think the hardest thing we take for granted is that [our counterparts] stay here and we rotate every six months, so the amount of effort they put and trust in us has to be rebuilt every six months,” Schoon said. “As long as we tell our defenders that are coming in behind us, ‘Listen, this is a relationship we are in together. Keeping everybody safe, … that’s what the goal should be.’”
The aerial port at Cargo City is the largest strategic logistics point for passengers and cargo in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, which requires more cooperative integration with the host nation security force.
“Progression is based off of what we are able to do; just like we have our manning capabilities and restrictions, they’re in the same boat,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Benjamin Hathaway, 387th ESFS training noncommissioned officer in charge and operations NCO. “We know when we go to Cargo City that we are going to be doing joint operations. In preparation for that, we shouldn’t just one day pick up and work together. We need to build up to that and have an understanding of how everything is going to operate. That’s why we are trying to do these things in a methodical manner.”
The 387th ESFS airmen participated in joint exercises with their counterparts leading up to the move to Cargo City. Plans include having host nation counterparts work entry control points, do vehicle searches and security patrols in cooperation, and in many cases side by side with airmen.
“The training has been progressively ongoing since 2016; however, it has been fairly recently that we have been working together at the gates,” said Maj. Mahammad Boresli, a security officer with the host nation forces. “For me, the knowledge and experience has been good for my team. I love being able to exercise with our two nations and gain the expertise needed.”
The first thing U.S. leaders looked at was how to train the host nation to U.S. standards of vehicle searching.
“The mentality they had going into it was ‘What do the Americans do, and why do they do it this way?’” Hathaway said. “We see how they run their operations, and they have a different mindset than us. We are really trying to envelop them into what our mindset is and why it is our mindset.”
Schoon said part of this is getting both airmen and the host nation military to become comfortable sharing information with each other so they can work effectively together.
“We sent out one of our interpreters to an entry control point, where both U.S. and host nation airmen hang out a lot together, to get them out there talking and having tea,” Schoon said. “Every time I go through the gate, I ask my airmen, ‘Have you talked to your friend today?’ I’m telling them to go talk to them. That’s the direction I give them every morning and every night when I leave through the gate.”
Hathaway agreed and said he pointed out to his counterparts that they are one family.
“We are all brothers and sisters here, all with the same goal and same mindset,” he said. “When you say that, every one of them can see it on their face. It’s about maintaining peace and looking out for each other, because at the end of the day I don’t care who you are — Kuwaiti, Italian, Canadian or American, it doesn’t matter — we are all on the planet together surviving and looking to survive and wanting to live. What I told them is, ‘We want to live, so being brothers and sisters is the best way to do that.”
(Additional reporting by Air Force Tech Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)