A Southeast Asia exhibit, dedicated to the history of security police deployed in Southeast Asia from 1964-1973, was unveiled in 2012 at the Security Forces Museum. The museum's closure is a disservice, former security forces members say. (Robbin Cresswell/Air Force)
SECURITY FORCES MUSEUM
As a retired security forces member, it came as a total shock when I read the Security Forces Museum was being closed [“Security Forces Museum, closed Friday, already missed,” Aug. 19 airforcetimes.com].
I haven’t been to Lackland to visit in quite some time, however, no trip to Lackland was complete without a visit to the museum.
When I entered the security police career field as a young law enforcement airman, one of the highlights of tech school was the trip to the museum. Every class had their class photo taken on the steps of that very building — built with donations from air police and security police and later maintained with donations from SF personnel. The museum was filled with exhibits lovingly donated by men and women in law enforcement, security, small arms marksmanship, combat arms training and maintenance, K9 and after the merger — security forces.
It was in this building, we honored our heroes — both two- and four-legged. It was here we put up their names and pictures so they would never be forgotten — those who died in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and all points in between. Who can forget K9 Nemo who even though gravely injured, saved his handler and others in Vietnam?
We deserved the museum that was raised by personnel from our career field. We deserve more than a display at a new museum — that doesn’t do our career field justice. Although all Air Force Specialty Codes are important, it is the Air Police/Security Police/Security Forces, SAMTU/CATM and K9 who stood the line, defended the bases and made sure personnel and resources were protected — first ones in, last ones out. We stand duty in the heat of the desert and stood duty in the cold of the Northern Tier bases until the end of the Cold War.
I’ve walked the halls of the museum on more than one occasion and, while looking at the exhibits, felt a closeness to those who came before me and knew those who came after would be able to look back with pride on their chosen path.
What are they going to have now? A display — no more than a display. What a disservice the Air Force has done to my brothers and sisters in arms.
Master Sgt. Elaine Bowman (ret.)
Air Education and Training Command dropped the ball on this one. News of the closure trickled down through unofficial channels and by the time any facts were known, photos of the closing ceremony popped up online.
I do not think AETC understands what this action has stirred within the air police/security police/security forces family. Its handling of this situation violated the seven “P’s” of planning.
According to one of our alumni associations, “not a single individual in neither the privately funded Security Forces Museum Foundation nor the Security Forces Academy were consulted. This lack of professional courtesy in staffing appears as an almost disrespectful sign toward the Security Forces career field, their veterans and senior leaders.”
This makes AETC’s decision look arbitrary. A privately funded facility and AETC wants to roll it into a museum, which the last unofficial reports had at about $88,000 in the till. We were doing fine, and AETC decided to fix what isn’t broke.
I do not think AETC understands what that museum means to my brothers and sisters. I received a message from an old friend who retired a few years ago who talked about going to work every day with little to no recognition and just doing his job to the best of his abilities. Many of us did nothing to make headlines even though we served in some pretty historic campaigns and that is why my brother says our museum is necessary.
“In a nutshell,” he said, “guys like me need the museum. Even though you won’t find mine and a lot of other names in history books, the museum lets us know we were and still are a part of something special.”
Another SF family member talked about how her experiences and those of her brothers and sisters are preserved in the SF Museum. “To consolidate it [the museum] is to marginalize our sacrifices. [We served] through earthquakes typhoons, cyclones, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, civil disturbances, a coup d’état, and in support of war time missions. We ARE NOT LESS and should not be treated as such.”
We are the largest career field in the Air Force and have thousands of alumni who can sound off without fear of reprisal. A consolidation that includes us is going to require our support — support that kept a facility running since 1979. I am sure folks will be grousing about the cops whining about their museum, but it is ours to share and not AETC’s to shutter and fold into a space in the base library without at least soliciting input from our side of the house.
If my tone comes off as confrontational, it was not meant as such, but more as a way of illuminating a sample of the anger that pervades our ranks regarding this situation. As one of our brothers said, “We have to try.” We can only hope AETC tries to make things right.
Former Staff Sgt. Scott Noble