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319th Security Forces Squadron Airmen endure sub-freezing temperatures to protect GFAFB

Airman 1st Class Brandon Hilliard, installation entry controller with the 319th Security Forces Squadron, left, and Senior Airman Dakota Smith, base defense operations center operator with the 319 SFS, interact with a driver passing through the main gate of Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., March 7, 2018. Installation entry controllers spend an average of 12 hours on each shift, staying vigilant and ensuring no one enters the base without authorization. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez)

Airman 1st Class Brandon Hilliard, installation entry controller with the 319th Security Forces Squadron, left, and Senior Airman Dakota Smith, base defense operations center operator with the 319 SFS, interact with a driver passing through the main gate of Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., March 7, 2018. Installation entry controllers spend an average of 12 hours on each shift, staying vigilant and ensuring no one enters the base without authorization. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez)

Airman 1st Class Brandon Hilliard, installation entry controller with the 319th Security Forces Squadron, conducts a radio check prior to finishing his shift March 7, 2018 at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Hilliard has been an installation entry controller and says his favorite part of the job is being able to interact with several people per day. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez)

Airman 1st Class Brandon Hilliard, installation entry controller with the 319th Security Forces Squadron, conducts a radio check prior to finishing his shift March 7, 2018 at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D. Hilliard has been an installation entry controller and says his favorite part of the job is being able to interact with several people per day. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Elora J. Martinez)

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- A stream of cars lulled through the front gate of Grand Forks AFB on March 7, 2018, passing by piles of melting snow and ice. The 319th Security Forces Squadron Airmen on guard took turns checking the drivers’ identification cards, making sure everyone was authorized before allowing them to pass. The temperature was a comparatively ‘warm’ 22 degrees, considering the base defenders endured a heavy snowstorm just days prior while most of the base was relieved from work for the day.
Because they work continuously to protect the base and its assets, base defenders experience harsh North Dakota winters first-hand, enduring temperatures dipping as low as negative 27 degrees in the past year.
“You have to embrace the suck,” said Airman 1st Class Brandon Hilliard, an installation entry controller with the 319 SFS.
Hilliard explained how the sub-zero temperatures are never fun to work in, but that there are certain things people do when they pass through the gates to help boost the moods of the Airmen on duty.
“When people smile or have positive attitudes, it’s appreciated,” Hilliard said. In addition to the smiles, Hilliard mentioned how he and other Airmen on-duty are grateful of the food or drinks they might receive, especially on cold days.
Hilliard said one of his favorite parts of the job is being able to interact with a lot of people on a daily basis, despite those who can be less than friendly at times.
“Sometimes people are rude,” said Senior Airman Dakotah Smith, a base defense operations center controller. “They can be impatient, especially since they don’t like stopping.”
Despite experiencing occasional inconsideration, Smith said he feels proud to be a part of military police force. He explained how his father and grandfather were also a part of the police force, and he felt he was continuing the tradition by choosing the SFS career field when enlisting.
Working for an average of 12 hours per shift, installation entry controllers can see hundreds of people per day. Interacting with person after person can become exhausting, according to some of the installation entry controllers, who say the negative attitudes and unrealistic expectations can weigh heavily on them.
“People expect perfect customer service,” said Senior Airman Conor Burris, an installation entry controller with the 319th SFS. “They also expect us to know every phone number on base or where every building is, which can be overwhelming, especially for a new Airman.”
The 319 SFS is one of the groups considered to be mission-essential, which means even when the base commander declares a base closure for extreme weather reasons, they often remain.
Part of Grand Forks AFB security forces’ mission is to defend the base by providing law enforcement, resource protection, antiterrorism and force protection, and combat arms training. Even through the winter storms, impatience or negativity, they stand boldly as the front line of defense for the warriors of the North.