Airmen preparedness key in GWOT

Colonel Wilkins F. Urquhart, commander, 3th Field Investigations Squadron, hands over the squadron guidon to Lt. Col. Adam C. Engleman, the new commander of the 7th Field Investigations Squadron during an assumption of command ceremony on Jul 28. Lt. Col. Engleman hails from Shaw AFB, S.C., where he was the director of the AFOSI Special Staff. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bobby Jones)

Colonel Wilkins F. Urquhart, commander, 3th Field Investigations Squadron, hands over the squadron guidon to Lt. Col. Adam C. Engleman, the new commander of the 7th Field Investigations Squadron during an assumption of command ceremony on Jul 28. Lt. Col. Engleman hails from Shaw AFB, S.C., where he was the director of the AFOSI Special Staff. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bobby Jones)

ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. -- This month I took command of AFOSI 7th Field Investigations Squadron located on Andrews Air Force Base. The 7th FIS is responsible for providing criminal, fraud, and counterintelligence investigative and operational capabilities to support wings and Airmen at Andrews and Bolling Air Force Bases, the Pentagon, and Fort Meade. 

While we conduct our in-garrison mission, we also prepare for our wartime mission. We strive to be relevant to the Air Force and the Joint warfighter. Whether we are conducting a criminal investigation at Andrews AFB or tracking a mortar team launching indirect fire on Joint Base Balad, our goal is to provide timely information to decision-makers that otherwise would not be available. Our goal is for that information to be timely and accurate ... all the time.

I just completed a two-year tour on Air Forces Central (AFCENT) staff responsible for strategic planning to integrate AFOSI's capability with Air Force expeditionary wings and Army maneuver units in Southwest Asia. My staff spent over 30 percent of our time deployed in the AFCENT Area of Responsibility assessing AFOSI's wartime mission execution. 

Our deployed personnel are doing phenomenal things in a dangerous environment ... and I couldn't be more proud of our command. In the past two years only, AFOSI operations have identified more than 4,000 insurgents which resulted in 900 insurgents either captured or killed. We haven't done it alone. Air Force Security Forces personnel and Army maneuver units played a vital role in convoy security outside-the-wire, and intelligence experts provided analysis and assessments to mitigate threats during operational activity. But it hasn't been without a price -- AFOSI, SFS, Explosive Ordinance Disposal, and other Airmen have lost lives at enemy hands. The Army and Marines are also taking casualties, but we are making tremendous gains towards CENTCOM's goals in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fight for freedom continues.

My recent experience in the war is why I believe it is imperative for Air Force leaders to continually assess the training provided to our deploying Airmen. Assumptions are often made that our peacetime mission and on-the-job training is enough ... but that couldn't be futher from the truth. As the United States military relies more and more on the joint fight, our Airmen will invariably conduct war-time missions in hostile areas and with other services. They will need basic and advanced combat training, as well as job specific training in a combat environment. As a baseline, all airmen should be knowledgeable of current events in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are a nation at war. While a healthy debate continues in our country, our mission and focus remains clear ... defeat the enemy insurgents and transition national security to the Afghanistan and Iraq governments.

Unfortunately, American lives have been lost as we engage in this fight against terrorists, insurgents, and extremists. That is why it is so critical for leaders to minimize risk to our Airmen by training them to the highest level before we deploy them to serve their country. We owe it to them, their families, and their fellow Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines to whom they will serve.