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460th SFS Defenders help prepare Balad for drawdown

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Right now, the military members stationed at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, are participating in the responsible drawdown of nearly 150,000 servicemembers from that country.

That means people and equipment from all over Iraq are making their way through Balad on their way back to the United States or forward to bases in Afghanistan, and every piece of equipment, from the smallest box to the largest flatbed truck, needs to be searched.

That's where members of the 460th Security Forces Squadron, who recently returned from a deployment to Balad, come in. Our Defenders joined with other Airmen from bases around the Air Force to not only meet the increased mission load, but to prepare the base facilities and Iraqi personnel to handle the mission once the drawdown is complete.

"We went from searching about 1,500 vehicles each month to almost 5,000," said Tech. Sgt. John Young, 460th SFS. "We were on 24-hour operations just to search all the incoming vehicles." All that practice, Sergeant Young said, helped his team and his multinational allies hone search procedures to a near-perfect level.

Sergeant Young's team also worked heavily with Iraqi Corrections Officers, who handled a lot of vehicle pre-screening.

"There was a lot of trust with these guys, because they knew the local folks," Sergeant Young said. "They were the continuity with the local population." As the drawdown goes on, he added, the trust developed with those guards should increase as jobs open up to the local community.

In addition to working with personnel, Sergeant Young and the rest of the deployed members of the 460th SFS set up new search pits and assisted in set-up of a large container-repair station to handle the increased cargo traffic from consolidated forward operating bases.

"From the openings of the buildings, to setting up new search pits, to procedures - our team were pretty much the ones who did that," Sergeant Young said. The deployment, he added, left him with a sense of accomplishment.

"I know when I left there, I took a lot of pride in the operations we did for the drawdown."

Information from a story by Airman 1st Class Allison M. Boehm, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs, contributed to this article.
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