New ICON PSO Team making a difference

  • Published
  • By Wayne Amann
  • AFOSI Public Affairs
For the Special Agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations there's much more to Protective Services Operations than donning their signature sunglasses.

PSOs are techniques and procedures designed to protect individuals from accidental injury, embarrassment, physical assault or death during a specific event, while traveling or over an extended period.

"Given the ever-changing environment in which we operate, the increasing use of asymmetric warfare by terrorists, home-grown extremists and the actions by those who display an inappropriate direction of interest toward our principles, PSOs will forever remain an integral part of AFOSI's mission and a vital service to the Air Force," said Lt. Col. David McLeod, AFOSI Investigations Collections Operations Nexus PSO desk chief.

The AFOSI PSO mission has grown from a few Special Agents to fulltime garrison details. That evolution was underscored with the newly created ICON PSO Team, co-located with the Global Watch Center at AFOSI headquarters here.

The team functions as a coordination center for protective services and provides intelligence and threat analysis by collaborating and sharing information with other ICON members, Army Protective Services Battalion, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Pentagon Force Protection Agency, and other federal and state agencies.

"I realized the importance to track, enable and coordinate the command's worldwide protective services detachments," said Brig. Gen. Keith M. Givens, AFOSI commander. "So I tasked the ICON to establish a team with operational oversight to introduce a co-ordination and de-confliction element that's been lacking."

AFOSI special agents learn the basic PSO skills during their initial 18-week training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Glynco, Ga. Agents assigned to protective service details and those who regularly assist PSOs are selected to attend the 11-day Protective Service Operations Training Program at FLETC. 

According to the FLETC website, the PSOTP is designed for Special Agents who will conduct or augment PSO for foreign and domestic leaders who are, or may become potential targets of terrorism and/or criminal acts. Emphasis is placed on the full spectrum of protective operations including: doctrine and terminology, coordination and mission planning, protective service motorcade operations and more.

The AFOSI Training Corporate Counsel approved the five-day Vehicle Ambush Counter-measures Training Program to be offered in fiscal year 2016 to PSO drivers and those who augment PSOs. Held at the Cheltenham, Md., and Glynco FLETC facilities, it teaches drivers practical alternatives to protect their high risk personnel against vehicle ambushes and assassination attempts during their movements. Special agents learn principles and techniques for deciding appropriate countermeasures during vehicle ambushes via lectures, discussions and practical exercises.

When assigned to a PSD, special agents' daily duties revolve around the protection of their high risk personnel. These responsibilities include determining the threat level to their high risk personnel, evaluating routes and locations, foreign and domestic travel coordination, liaison with law enforcement counterparts and the general health and security of their high risk personnel.

"For decades, OSI agents have conducted PSOs for Air Force secretaries, chiefs of staff, combatant commanders and Secretary of Defense-hosted foreign counterparts," said the PSO desk officer. "Not only are agents responsible for their protection, but those assigned to field detachments are often in the protective circle when the principals visit their locations, often exposing the agents to events and venues they would not normally be exposed to."

Air Force leadership appreciates the tireless performance of AFOSI PSO special agents. Former Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley recognized the field agent support when he said, "I am continually impressed by the professionalism and dedication of the members of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations."

The global footprint of AFOSI PSO is substantial. AFOSI is one of five Department of Defense agencies authorized to conduct protection of DoD high risk personnel, and is the only one in the Air Force to do so. AFOSI Special Agents routinely provide PSOs for senior military officials in combat zones. They also facilitate executive protection to foreign senior officers visiting the U.S., DoD senior leadership plus other DoD/U.S. government officials as needed.

AFOSI staffs six garrison PSDs responsible for the Secretary of the Air Force, the Air Force Chief of Staff, foreign dignitary visits, U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Transportation Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and U.S. Northern Command. Additionally, AFOSI has seven deployed Personal Security Advisors and part-time PSAs assigned to major command commanders.

"Consequently, it's imperative we work closely with region coordinators and local detachments to provide appropriate assistance with high risk personnel movements," McLeod said.         

ICON's new PSO Team is the lynchpin for the interaction among units. Its mission is to enable world-wide executive level protection of Air Force senior leaders and high risk personnel by providing timely, full-spectrum information/intelligence gathering, analyses and oversight.

"This new team was created to further ensure PSOs are conducted in a seamless fashion with the rest of the field," said Mr. Matthew D. Simmons, AFOSI Global operations executive director.

Since its August 2015 inception, the new PSO Team has already produced tangible results.

One region level PSO program manager said, "The standup of the new PSO Coordination Office headed by Lt. Col. McLeod has been beneficial. The PSO team is becoming the command focal point for all customers requiring PSO support, and they're working on providing tasking information to the field in a timely manner. Previously, multiple entities needing PSO support would contact units directly, only sometimes notify the regions, lead-time varied greatly. This made it difficult for field leaders to de-conflict schedules and obtain needed items like manning, funding and vehicle support to effectively meet mission requirements. This new coordination point is reducing those occurrences and eventually will eliminate them.

"The new PSO coordination team is also taking inputs from the field and working solutions at the headquarters OSI level. Eventually, these actions targeting training, manning, funding and equipment, will lead to increased efficiency in meeting future tasks plus provide better oversight and situational awareness to command leaders."

(Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the Winter 2015 Edition of Global Reliance Magazine.)