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Face of Defense: Security Force Airman Puts Service Before Self

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont., June 22, 2016 — On Nov. 22, 2015, Air Force Senior Airman Jonathan James, a 341st Security Forces Squadron patrolman here, had a day he will never forget.

A gate runner intentionally drove around the gates, started to navigate the barriers and then physically confronted James and another patrolman.

“We had to use force to take the individual down and apprehend him,” James said. “We did everything we were trained to do for that particular situation.”

The situation worsened as James realized that the apprehension was turning into a suspicious package situation. Two security forces personnel began to search the vehicle, as is the protocol in these situations, he said. As James’ fellow airmen conducted the search, the apprehended individual made an alarming comment.

“The individual apprehended on the ground looked up to me and said, ‘Your buddies just blew up,’” James said.

Because of the comment, James and his fellow security force members brought in the explosive ordnance disposal team to determine whether the threat was real.

After nothing was found, the individual was taken into custody.

“If you ask any one of us who were on-scene at the time, we were just doing our job and what we were trained to do,” James said. “We didn’t do it for any type of special recognition.”

James and the 341st squadron members on-scene at the time were recognized by base leaders.

Following Family Traditions

James has been an airman since June 2011, joining the Air Force after growing up hearing his grandfather’s stories.

“My grandfather was one of the first pararescuemen back in 1950,” James said.

James starts his work day at 4 a.m., and is expected to be at guard mount by 5:30 a.m. to receive his daily briefings, information from the previous night’s team and to review daily operations requirements.

“The typical duty day for members of SFS is from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and sometimes can even be a 15-hour day,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Robert Renfrow, 341st SFS flight chief.

James said the Air Force also sends down daily checks that must be accomplished.

“One requirement ... is our daily perimeter checks to ensure there isn’t anything suspicious or holes in any of the fences,” James said. “In the past, we had a bear jump the fence.”

Laws Exist For a Reason

James also patrols the base to make sure everyone is safe, and people are following the rules.

“Laws are in place for a reason,” James said. “No one likes to be told they were caught, because of something they did wrong.”

James said he wishes people would know that when they are pulled over, written a citation or corrected on something, members of law enforcement are not doing it to be mean, but to keep them and other members of the base safe.

He also volunteers his off-duty time keeping people safe as a volunteer firefighter for the Vaughn Fire Department in Vaughn, Montana.

“I have been involved with firefighting since I was 16 years old, and am a lieutenant for the Vaughn Fire Rescue,” James said. “As a lieutenant, I do not have the full privilege to run an incident, but I can if absolutely necessary. Normally my role is to lead the crews inside a house fire.”

James said he met his wife while volunteering for the Black Eagle Fire Department.

“A couple of years ago, my wife and I were responding to a house fire,” James said. “We made it to the second floor, and were called to evacuate the building. As soon as we walked out of the front door, the roof collapsed where we were standing.”

James has been volunteering as a firefighter in Montana for four years, and occasionally volunteers with the Cascade Search and Rescue.

“I like to think I am keeping people safe, but ultimately the Air Force does come first,” James said.
Distribution channels: Military