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Viper Patrol first layer of defense downrange

Defenders of the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron bravely stand ready to protect lives and secure the installation in a deployed environment by going outside the wire each day as part of Viper Patrol.

A C-17 departs an air base Dec. 6, 2017 at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. The 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron’s Viper Patrol ensures the five-kilometer security zone outside the wire is safe for coalition aircraft to approach or take off. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

Defenders of the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron bravely stand ready to protect lives and secure the installation in a deployed environment by going outside the wire each day as part of Viper Patrol.

Tech. Sgt. Andrew McClendon and Senior Airman Katelene Hiser, 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron Viper Patrol defenders, patrol an area Dec. 6, 2017, at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. They are the first layer of integrated defense in the five-kilometer security zone outside the wire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Louis Vega Jr.)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Sounds of radio traffic fill the air, “Viper four this is Viper one, meet me at hilltop 140,” as patrols cautiously maneuver four-wheel drive vehicles through rough desert terrain at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

Defenders of the 386th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron bravely stand ready to protect lives and secure the installation in a deployed environment by going outside the wire each day as part of Viper Patrol.

“They are the first layer of integrated defense,” said Maj. Aaron Williams, 386th ESFS commander. “They assess if anything out of the ordinary is going on in the base security zone and they are very effective at what they do.”

The base security zone is a five-kilometer area stretching outward from the perimeter of the installation. This area outside the wire can pose a threat either by indirect fire or threats to coalition aircraft as they approach or take-off.

Part of the Viper Patrol duties include, engaging locals within the security zone to build a rapport and establish a positive narrative on the mission here. Periodically, social key leader engagements are organized in local camps to discuss and assess unusual activities in area. Typically, defenders are invited to eat or have tea.

“This gives us an opportunity to let them know we are not just here for us,” Williams said. “We are here to help everyone involved.”

Occasionally, a “2K” incursion occurs. Typically, this is when locals unintentionally wander into an area within two-kilometers of the installation and Viper Patrol defenders immediately step into action and make contact. This is more prevalent during the fall season when locals are encouraged by their government to camp outdoors.

Many of the locals and their livestock reside within the five-kilometer security zone but cannot encroach upon the two-kilometer demarcation barrier without resistance.

“For me, going to the camps and interacting with the locals is the best part of the job,” said Master Sgt. Tyrel Askren, Viper Patrol noncommissioned officer in charge. “It gives us an opportunity to learn their customs and practice what we’ve learned at the next camp.”

Askren is a reservist from the 931st Security Forces Squadron at Mcconnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and a civilian police officer on a Federal Native American reservation. This is his third deployment in his 17-year career. He expressed the importance of this duty and if defenders were not willing to carry themselves as ambassadors and willing to communicate with locals, then Viper Patrol was not the position for them.

Williams emphasized how effective the Viper Patrol was to the fight and how proud he was of his defenders.

“I have a squadron of extremely professional defenders,” concluded Williams. “We draw on experiences of Total Force Integration from civilian law enforcement and active duty and different bases. Our noncommissioned officers and senior NCOs do a phenomenal job of taking those pieces and putting it together creating the 386th ESFS and conducting air base defense on a day-to-day basis.”