News | April 25, 2022

Ali Al Salem Air Base’s first line of defense: 386th ESFS entry controllers

By Senior Airman Daira Jackson 386 AEW Public Affairs

Every day, security forces defenders provide base security both at home station and in theater of operations.

Here on base, a team of entry controllers from the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron screen approximately 550 to 650 other country nationals on a daily basis, at a personnel entry control point on base.

“It’s a very important job,” said Senior Airman Joshua Houde, entry controller, 386th ESFS. “Whenever an OCN comes here to work, we're the first line of defense that they [pass] through. We're the ones that search all their belongings, their person and we're the ones who can process them and keep those records here in this building.”

An important part of protecting our country is ensuring the safety of the people, property and resources on every Air Force base.

“We’re looking for [prohibited items] coming out or going in [the base],” said Staff Sgt. Shannon Oakley, day shift supervisor of personnel entry control point, 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. “There's been a few people trying to bring in things that aren't allowed.”

A job that’s both physically and mentally demanding, these highly focused security forces experts go through extensive training to make sure everyone and everything on base is protected.

“We make sure they're not bringing any weapons or anything they're not supposed to,” said Senior Airman Logan Ramey, entry controller, 386th ESFS. “Basically, [our mission is to] keep everyone on the base safe and sound from people that may want to hurt them.”

With the large number of OCNs passing through the PECP on a daily basis, there are some challenges.

“There are language barriers and the OCNs—sometimes they [understand us], sometimes they don't,” said Oakley. “If we don't have the perfect number of people in the building, then stuff starts going haywire and turns into chaos. That’s why we have a process in place.”

The busiest time is between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. when all the personnel from services, such as the base exchange and barber shop, come into PECP to get processed and go to work.

“It's a 24/7 post,” said Ramey. “Every [service] or construction company has different hours on base. Whenever OCNs leave, they have to go through the same [security screening] process just to make sure they didn't take anything from base.”

Regardless of the challenges, the members of the 386th ESFS enjoy learning new languages and having meaningful conversations with a vast array of cultures and people.

“My favorite thing about my job is basically, the people—getting to know the OCNs and the other coalition forces—we work with the Canadians and the Italians,” said Oakley. “We get to know them. Talk to them. A couple of my guys have learned some Italian. We also learned about what the U.S. Army and the Canadians do here on base.”

Although the security forces members take on a role of authority and security for the base, Houde said it doesn’t mean that they can’t speak with the OCNs and get to know them.

“I've spoken with some of the ones that work at the barber shop and the BX and it's really, really cool, because you get to meet all of these OCNs from these different countries,” said Houde. “A lot of them are from India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. But I've met one from Poland and one from Ethiopia. So, you get to experience and see upfront a lot of different cultures. I think that's what makes the job interesting.”

As the largest career field in the Air Force, it’s the job of Security Forces to protect, defend and fight. The members of the 386th ESFS are trained to protect and serve their fellow Airmen around the clock.

“So far, being here, it's been a pretty good experience—the ups, the downs,” said Ramey. “At the end of the day, I've met some really good people—really good friends. I wouldn't trade it for the world.”