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COMMENTARY: Behind the scenes: at the gate

By Airman 1st Class Tessa B. Corrick 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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(Editor's Note: Team Barksdale, wing leadership has heard reports of rude and unprofessional drivers interacting with guards at the gate. We sent one of our journalists to augment our security forces Airmen and get a sense of what they experience every day and the importance of their mission. She found that the reports of rudeness are accurate, and it seems as though some of us have taken our protectors, and their mission to keep us safe, for granted. Let's show the gate guards our appreciation through simple politeness when we go through the gate. Thank you. Capt. Andrew Caulk - Chief, Public Affairs)

Interaction with security forces gate guards is a common occurrence on base. People may think that guarding a gate is an easy aspect of the security forces career field, but my perspective is totally different after my behind-the-scenes experience augmenting at the gate.

I stepped out of my warm car into the frigid morning air to be greeted by my defender-mentor for the day. I had heard the perception that security forces members were unpleasant and smug. I quickly found out he was quite the opposite.

Senior Airman Dakota Webster handed me a big yellow and blue police vest that made me stick out like a sore, reflective thumb. He explained the responsibilities of a gate guard, including the different credentials they examine. There were so many more than I ever thought, all of which have to be checked for authenticity, exact identification and expiration date.

They must also watch for suspicious activity, seatbelt violations, vehicle registration violations, safety hazards and be thorough with customs and courtesies.

Ten minutes into the shift and I was already filled with anxiety, but the defenders made it look so easy. After watching Webster a few times, he offered me to take part.

I started checking credentials and greeting people with the warmest welcome I could, while simultaneously freezing. Most of my interactions were pleasant. I felt like people appreciated the work of the gate guards, even by simply sharing a smile or a “good morning.”

However, there were a few people who shocked me.

One man drove up, flung his arm out the window with his ID and blankly stared through his windshield. The only indication that he acknowledged me was the fact he handed over his ID.

I have heard some people were rude to the gate guards, but I couldn’t understand why.

Another person sped up to us so fast I didn’t think he was going to stop. The driver opened his window and a cloud of cigarette smoke rolled out into our faces. This man’s demeanor was not one of hostility or insolence, he was actually quite nice despite the initial contact.

A different woman pulled up to the gate and smiled as she handed her ID to me. Nothing out of the ordinary, but she continued to have a separate conversation with someone else in the vehicle completely ignoring Webster and me.

The latter two individuals were not blatantly rude, but to the other guards and me their actions came across as impolite.

There was one point in the day, before the second shift arrived, when the traffic increased sooner than normal. I got a little antsy because I was still trying to be quick and diligent with my augmentee duties.

One gentleman seemed to think he could fix the delay by yelling at me for the wait time being too long. I couldn’t understand his frustration. We were doing all we could to ensure the process was as fast and thorough as possible.

The responses of the security forces Airmen around me during all of those situations were not of anger, negativity or antagonism. Each of them responded calmly and assisted me when I needed it. That blew my mind. It was difficult to be nice when people were rude, especially after it kept happening; but that didn’t matter to the defenders. It is their job to respond in a way that will not escalate a situation, but defuse it. For what it’s worth, I was proud of them.

Based on my experience as an augmentee, here is some guidance for interactions with security forces gate guards. First, be nice. When you pull up to the gate, acknowledge them. Put down your cigarette, pause your conversation, return their greeting and give your full attention to that Airman.

Wait times are not ideal, but remember, the defenders are the determining factor when it comes to who is getting on this base and who is staying out. They stand guard no matter the time, weather or day, doing their diligence and keeping us safe.

Put yourself in their shoes. Would you want to deal with someone like you? Next time you go through a gate, I challenge you to treat those men and women like you know they’re protecting you, the mission and your family.