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Arizona security forces team named 'best in ANG'

Staff Sgt. Michael Hayes breaches a door as Staff Sgt. Pablo Berchini and Staff Sgt. Nicholas Fay, members of the 161st Security Forces Squadron, prepare to clear a room inside a shoot-house during training, Phoenix, Jan. 16. Airmen practiced scenarios ranging from room clearing to entry procedures during a close quarters exercise as part of their annual training.

Staff Sgt. Michael Hayes breaches a door as Staff Sgt. Pablo Berchini and Staff Sgt. Nicholas Fay, members of the 161st Security Forces Squadron, prepare to clear a room inside a shoot-house during training, Phoenix, Jan. 16. Airmen practiced scenarios ranging from room clearing to entry procedures during a close quarters exercise as part of their annual training.

Staff Sgt. Eric Mirabal, 161st Security Forces Squadron member, secures the perimeter and stands guard over the KC-135r tanker during a generation exercise, Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base, April 6, 2014. This mobility exercise involves “fast response” techniques in order to ensure the aircrew can react quickly and effectively when missions require a moment’s notice. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Courtney Enos)

Staff Sgt. Eric Mirabal, 161st Security Forces Squadron member, secures the perimeter and stands guard over the KC-135r tanker during a generation exercise, Phoenix Sky Harbor Air National Guard Base, April 6, 2014. This mobility exercise involves “fast response” techniques in order to ensure the aircrew can react quickly and effectively when missions require a moment’s notice. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Courtney Enos)

Staff Sgt. Robert Ehle, 161st Security Forces Squadron Advanced Designated Marksmen, hones his newly acquired skills at the shooting range in Florence, Ariz., Jan. 9, 2015. ADM Airmen, or “snipers”, deliver long-range direct fire out to 600 meters and provide enhanced situational awareness through observation and reporting in peacetime and contingency operations. The 161st Security Forces Squadron is one of only eight units of the more than 100 Air National Guard units which currently have trained/qualified advanced designated marksmen. To become a certified Air Force advanced designated marksman, Airmen must attend the ADM course at Ft. Bliss, El Paso, Texas. The 11-day course familiarizes Airmen with the M24 weapon system and teaches target detection, along with distance and windage estimation. “The hardest part of the school is the really long days,” said Ehle. “It’s out in the desert, there’s no shade and it’s about 110 degrees and you are out there for more than eight hours.” (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Courtney Enos/Released)

Staff Sgt. Robert Ehle, 161st Security Forces Squadron Advanced Designated Marksmen, hones his newly acquired skills at the shooting range in Florence, Ariz., Jan. 9, 2015. ADM Airmen, or “snipers”, deliver long-range direct fire out to 600 meters and provide enhanced situational awareness through observation and reporting in peacetime and contingency operations. The 161st Security Forces Squadron is one of only eight units of the more than 100 Air National Guard units which currently have trained/qualified advanced designated marksmen. To become a certified Air Force advanced designated marksman, Airmen must attend the ADM course at Ft. Bliss, El Paso, Texas. The 11-day course familiarizes Airmen with the M24 weapon system and teaches target detection, along with distance and windage estimation. “The hardest part of the school is the really long days,” said Ehle. “It’s out in the desert, there’s no shade and it’s about 110 degrees and you are out there for more than eight hours.” (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Courtney Enos/Released)

PHOENIX -- Senior defense officials announced recently, the 161st Air Refueling Wing's security forces squadron is the best Air Guard security team in the nation.

The squadron based at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport here earned the 2014 Air National Guard Security Forces Squadron of the Year award. This nation-wide distinction sets it apart from more than 100 Air National Guard security forces squadrons.

"The 161st Security Forces Squadron represents the very best," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, director of the Air National Guard. "These outstanding defenders stood out from their peers in 2014 and showcased the Air National Guard at home and abroad. The 161st excelled while meeting the demands of multiple deployments and home station security. The competition was fierce among the high speed defenders in the Air National Guard.  Congratulations to the 161st and the families that supported them along the way."

The award recognized the unit for its in-garrison accomplishments as well as for mobilizing 58 of the squadron's 75 Airmen over three separate deployments.

"This recognition stands for so much more than an award," said Air Force Lt. Col. Denise Sweeney, the squadron commander. "It is an outward symbol of our commitment to each other as a team and our impressive ability, to not only deploy most of our squadron, but continually meet our in-garrison mission demands despite continuous challenges."

She said they couldn't have accomplished what they did if the squadron hadn't come together as a team. She said it's incredible that they never had a lack of volunteers to accomplish the mission.

"We provided an extensive amount of garrison support to the wing, while also sustaining a high [operations] tempo, but we have never had to give an excuse or have a shortfall," said Sweeney.

Chief Master Sgt. Scott Burton, security forces manager, said his Airmen met deployments and home station requirements thanks to the support they have at home.

"At the end of the day it's the family support," he said. "We wouldn't get the volunteerism that we do if the families weren't backing them up. They know this is important."

Sweeney agreed, "Our squadron includes our families. We absolutely couldn't do what we do without their support."

Air Force Staff Sgt. Amanda Brooks, security forces craftsman, said family support is reflected in the way the squadron members came together and synchronized as a family and as a team.

"We have all really come together and we have a great sense of unity within the squadron," she said. "Knowing that we are all here to support one another has really kept morale up. Nobody complained about the high ops tempo and back-to-back deployments; there were a lot of volunteers. This is why we have a lot of unit pride within the squadron."

Brooks said that winning the Squadron of the Year award is a big boost to the squadron's pride and it makes her feel grateful to be a part of such a prestigious unit.

While speaking to her Airmen, Sweeney said, "You didn't deploy multiple times, work [numerous] days in a row, or support flights on a moment's notice because it would make a good bullet statement. You did it because you are proud to serve and would do anything to support your fellow defenders, our wing and our great nation."

Sweeney said these achievements wouldn't have been possible without the support of the entire Wing and that the award is an acknowledgment of the hard work of the entire 161st.

"What it really boils down to is the mission and, as a wing, we are 100 percent all-in," she said.