By Tech. Sgt. David Brumley, 155 ARW/PA
/ Published May 29, 2008
LINCOLN, Neb. - -- Take the population of Maryland and cram it into South Dakota, fill it with mountains and place it on the western end of China and you start to have something that resembles
the nation of Kyrgyzstan.
For six months, this tiny central Asian country was home for 28 members of the 155th Security Forces Squadron while they were deployed to Manas Air Base, just outside the capital of Bishkek.
While being away from home can be difficult, what many found to be the biggest asset they brought with them on the trip was the right attitude.
"A deployment is what you make out of it," said Master Sgt. Craig Shrimpton, 155th SFS noncommissioned officer-incharge of installation security and the superintendent of force protection while at Manas Air Base, Kyrgyzstan. "I think
mentally, it's just a positive mental attitude."
Staff Sgt. Lindsey Yardley, 155th SFS member and visitor control member while stationed at Manas, echoed Shrimpton's sentiment. "For me it was maintaining a positive mental attitude and a willingness to learn. Those are the two key things. If you have those two, you will be fine."
For Shrimpton, a veteran of past deployments, this was the longest time he has spent away from home in his 20 years in service. He said it helped to have family back home that supported him on the trip while he was gone.
"My wife has what she calls her 'gameon' face. She knows this is something I prepared for my entire career and she knows I'm going to go do it and do it the best that I can."
Shrimpton said he felt that positive attitude was a key ingredient for all the Nebraska Guard members.
"I think one of the things that made this deployment special for a lot of people was that at least 90 percent or greater volunteered, instead of being 'voluntold.' I think that makes a difference."
The Nebraska Guard performed many important missions during the almost six months they were stationed in the land-locked country guarding the Manas International Airport and advising the wing commander on force protection concerns for the base.
The members were broken down into two 13 member security teams and a two person Force Protection team, according to Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Swetland 155th SFS Superintendent.
The FP team was made up of Capt. Matthew Clough, 155th SFS commander and Shrimpton.
"They basically are the wing commander's personal staff for force protection," said Master Sgt. Jason Schroeder, 155th Wing Anti-Terror Force Protection security officer.
As the Manas FP staff, Clough and Shrimpton were responsible for ensuring that force protection measures were kept up to date at the base, which in turn kept the personnel and resources there safe.
This included monitoring everything that was coming or going on at the base, from new buildings being built, running the Right-From-The-Start briefing for all newcomers, wing exercise program, the off-base program and conducting random anti-terror measures.
Shrimpton said he wore many hats while stationed at Manas, but by far the bulk of his time was spent processing requests to go off base.
While the wing commander at Manas made the approvals, Shrimpton's recommendations were always the main consideration in getting a request approved.
"(The commander's) the ultimate decision maker," he said. "Past experience says that if we concur, he doesn't second guess us."
The regular security members were equally challenged in keeping everything together
during their work and off time.
"It was a small base, but the (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) folks had a lot of stuff for us to do, including a really outstanding gym" said Master Sgt. James Boeselager, a Nebraska Air Guard Security Forces supervisor who was a shift supervisor while at Manas.
According to Yardley, the greatest challenge to her job was trying to figure out how to communicate with the local nationals who didn't speak English.
"95 percent of the people I dealt with on a regular basis didn't speak English. So, the communication barrier was huge," she said.
This created a situation where she had to find other ways to communicate with out being able to talk to them."
"I really learned how to talk to somebody with body language," she added.
This usually required hand gestures for simple things and bringing in an interpreter for the harder situations. This was compounded even more in Manas because they had more stringent security than she usually has to enforce when she works at Nebraska.
"You had a heightened sense of security. There, we were searching every vehicle, each person and their bags... everything."
The trip was a great learning experience for most of the Nebraska Air Guardsmen, including helping them get better prepared for the next time they have to live in a foreign land.
"Before I went to Kyrgyzstan I did some research, but from now on I'm going to do a lot more research on the country and I'm going to figure out what language it is because you can learn so much from a different culture," said Yardley. "I went there with the mentality to learn, but I want to do better... I could have done better."