Fairchild Security Forces assist Army to safeguard Camp Bucca
By Shadi May, Public Affairs staff writer
/ Published April 18, 2006
FAIRCHILD AFB, Wash. -- After more than six months in Iraq, Fairchild defenders are back from a deployment to Camp Bucca which allowed them to help their Army counterparts and be a part of history.
Camp Bucca is the largest internment facility in the theater of operation. Named after Ronald Bucca, a soldier and a New York City fire marshal who lost his life on Sept. 11, the camp is located in the most Southern part of Iraq, a three-hour helicopter ride from Baghdad and a 40-minute drive from Basra,.
Normally managed and manned by the U.S. Army personnel, Bucca is now mainly manned by Air Force Security Forces personnel.
“The Army has been supporting a number of missions across Iraq and Afghanistan, so they needed us to augment their security personnel,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Kenney, “This was not a normal tasking as the Air Force had not performed detainee operations of such scale.”
For nearly one month, the 26-member Fairchild team trained at Fort Lewis on detainee operations from first-aid and convoy operations to self defense and cell extraction – the safe removal of an uncooperative detainee from a holding area.
Bucca is where the United States holds individuals captured by the Marines and the Army Special Forces. The detainees are citizens with backgrounds from the illiterate to highly educated biologists and mathematicians.
“But these were not the average citizens,” said Sergeant Kenney. “They were among those who possessed guns and explosives in their vehicles or homes.”
Equivalent to a United States medium- to high-security prison, each compound within the facility has a ‘mayor,’ an Imam (a religious leader), an interpreter and a service crew (detainees assisting with food and facility searches).
“Because of its security level, we needed to have at least a non-lethal weapon, pepper spray, taser gun, baton or shot gun with less-than-lethal rounds at all times,” said Sergeant Kenney. “We had the pepper spray and the taser gun tested on us during our training. The logic behind it was that if we were going to employ any type of device on a detainee, we’d have to know how it feels so that we could realize the limitations of it and know it’s not a magic wand.”
“Keeping control of yourself and maintaining discipline could be challenging at times,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Wilson. “The detainees would test us out by going to every extreme to try our patience by challenging our procedures.”
“Respecting the detainees and their ways was instilled in us from the beginning,” said the Airmen. “We were professionals at all times and determined to not have any conflicts.”
“The United States provided great care for these detainees,” said Sergeant Kenney. “They received good food and excellent medical and dental treatment. They told us that they didn’t have this ‘life style’ where they lived. Many said that Camp Bucca was the best thing happening to them.”
Assisting the Army to secure Camp Bucca included an opportunity for these Airmen to be a part of history as well.
The Fairchild team assisted the detainees during Iraq’s first democratic voting session by setting up voting booths and escorting the detainees to the booths.
“We were already working 14- to 15-hour shifts. Preparing for voting sessions, we put in 20-hour shifts,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Herriges. “The hard work paid off by seeing every person getting an opportunity to exercise their right to vote. It was quite an experience to have a detainee come to you and say ‘Thanks for giving us the opportunity we have never had before.’”
The Airmen were also there when Ronald Bucca’s son came by the camp for a tour on the Sept. 11 fourth anniversary.
“It was touching to be working at a camp visited by the son of a hero,” said Sergeant Herriges.
Additionally, the Air Force personnel also helped give the facility a major facelift. Most of the compound was tents when they first arrived. The Air Force teams helped build a ‘quad concept’ compound which was a significant upgrade to buildings with air conditioned caravans.
“We changed the place forever,” Sergeant Kenney said. “Our efforts made a major difference for both the detainees and the security personnel.”