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NEWS | June 9, 2017

Physical security Airman counters threats before they occur

By Jeremy Gerlach 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Tech. Sgt. Michelle Aberle, 802nd Security Forces Squadron NCO in charge of physical security, can’t see into the future, but she can work to prevent security breaches from ever happening here.


“My work is all about eliminating risk,” said Aberle, assigned with securing all protection level assets at JBSA-Lackland. “Especially unnecessary risk – if you can prepare yourself for potential problems, you’ve already won most of the battle.”


That work can be painstaking for Aberle, who spends her days ensuring restricted areas at JBSA-Lackland stay restricted.

One week, she might be completing a design review for a new building on the installation. The next week, she might be providing other types of guidance like crime prevention surveys, or coordinating police services for events like National Night Out. These surveys help Aberle’s team figure out ways security can be enhanced to protect the inhabitants of a facility.


Aberle’s work goes far beyond the Air Force Instructions and the manuals. She balances her workload with a demanding physical component.


“Any given day, I’m out there on an All-Terrain Vehicle, patrolling along the border fence myself,” Aberle said. “We’re looking for cuts in the fence, holes, any sort of damage that someone could exploit to enter the base illegally.”


Checking miles of perimeter fence for wear and damage can take hours, given the fact trespassers typically don’t hit the same spots in the fencing repeatedly.


Even if Aberle and her team could apprehend every interloper armed with bolt cutters in the San Antonio area, they’d still have to deal with weather damage to the installation fencing from lightning, wind debris, or other natural elements.


“We’re always looking out for that type of damage, too,” Aberle said. “You’d be surprised how often that happens (with the weather). Any time you have a destroyed or mangled fence, that allows for unauthorized access.”


Despite these external hazards, Aberle noted her team also faces internal pressure from impatient people trying to get on base.


“So many people view security as an inconvenience, something they really don’t want to deal with,” Aberle said. “It’s tough to help them understand that there is a reason for everything we do.”


In a sense, the more successful Aberle is at countering threats proactively, the more flak her team catches from people who are unaware of these threats.


“When we prevent problems from happening, those people might not be aware of all the risk (that) exists in the first place,” Aberle explained. “But without someone doing this job, you’d sacrifice a lot of the security we take for granted. You’d see more unauthorized entry, and you wouldn’t have security guidance for new facilities that enables them to be safer.”


While the job can be demanding at times, Aberle is proud to defend JBSA-Lackland.


After working two years as physical security NCOIC, Aberle recently moved on to her new duty position with the 737th Training Group this month. Aberle, who has enjoyed a career as a Security Forces Squadron Defender for last 12 years, said she was proud to continue on that career path.


“While most people might run away from danger, we’re running towards it,” Aberle said. “That’s how we help people – and that’s why I’m here – because I can go home every day knowing that I’ve helped keep people safe.”