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NEWS | Feb. 22, 2021

Defenders forge culture of service, remember fallen Airmen

By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson 332 Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron

Expeditionary security forces squadrons share a culture across the globe—wherever the U.S. Air Force needs to fly aircraft into harm’s way.

They are there keeping Airmen and resting aircraft safe. They patrol the fence line; control who steps onto the base.

They do this with the knowledge that it’s not a safe profession, but an absolutely critical one.

At the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, those Airmen, including some from Tinker Air Force Base, pay homage to this special culture and in particular those who made the ultimate sacrifice while performing missions in dangerous places.

On the fence line, a two-ton M-ATV crawls past. A rugged vehicle constructed to survive the blast of an improved explosive device, it boasts an M-240 machine gun turret, 6.6 liter turbo diesel motor, bullet-proof glass, 46-inch run-flat tires and a small, unobtrusive stencil on the back door.

TORQE62

“On the side of all our ‘Mat-Vees’ each one has a unique name, for example this one is TORQE 6-2,” explains Senior Airman Camron Nuner, pointing at the vehicle. “It’s named after the call sign of a C-130 at ‘J-Bad’ that crashed outside the wire in October 2015 killing five contractors and six Airmen including two of our defenders.”

Nuner, who is a member of the 72nd Security Forces Squadron at Tinker, speaks in military parlance, “J-Bad” is Jalalabad, Afghanistan. “Mat-Vee” is Mine-Resistant, All-Terrain Vehicle or M-ATV.

“We have HUSTLER 6, BUNKER 51, TF-1041 just honoring the heritage and legacy of defenders before us,” he said. “Every time someone gets in a ‘M-ATV’, every time they go out to post they see those call signs, they see that name—that legacy they carry on their shoulders.”

The legacy they carry includes the killing of two defenders and four Office of Special Investigations special agents by a suicide bomber near Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan—HUSTLER 6.

BUNKER 51 takes us to the Vietnam War where a bunker was overrun during the TET Offensive leaving four dead, and one badly wounded survivor.

Another takes us to Balad Air Base in Iraq, where defenders pursued the enemy outside the wire and captured 17 high-value enemies, discovered eight major arms caches and captured more than 100 heavy weapons—TF-1041.

“It’s a good way to honor the defenders who came before us and made that ultimate sacrifice so that we can continue the mission today,” he said.