The Beginning of Air Base Defense
In the 1960s, the name Air Provost Marshal was dropped in favor of Director of Security and Law Enforcement; a title reflecting the actual responsibilities involved in the job.
First Air Policeman killed in action
Staff Sergeant Terrance Jensen was the first Air Policeman killed in action during the Vietnam Conflict on July 1, 1965, while supervising flightline security at Da Nang Air Base. Sergeant Jensen was conducting post checks on troops who were working isolated posts at night, when he and a sentry were surprised by a small force of saboteurs. He only had enough time to shout a few instructions at the frightened sentry and fire several rounds at the intruders before he was fatally engaged by superior firepower.
Air Police leadership had been promoting the use of canine teams and felt the tragedy might have been avoided had they been authorized to utilize canines. Approximately two weeks later, 40 canine teams were shipped to Vietnam as part of a test program called Top Dog. Within two months, 149 additional canine teams were deployed.
The demands of the Vietnam War led to the creation of Operation SAFE SIDE in 1967. This was an effort to bolster protection of air bases by training Security Police in light infantry tactics and special weapons. Many of the lessons learned during this time are the basis of today‘s Force Protection doctrine.
Career field name change
In 1966, the name of the career field was changed from air police to security police. This term was considered descriptive, concise, and uniformly applicable; it combined the two main mission elements: police and security functions.
The Vietnam Conflict changed the threat to air bases and pointed out the need, under insurgent or limited war conditions, for revised doctrine. Specifically a whole base protective system was needed, rather than one centered solely on weapons systems. There were no front lines, no clearly defined battle zones, and no safe rear areas. The North Vietnamese targeted air bases on a regular basis and destroyed a large number of aircraft. In 1965, each base was made responsible for its own protection, freeing Army maneuver units for other missions.
The uniforms of the 1960's changed as the US Air Force continued to grow and mature.
Silver Tan Uniforms
"Silver tans" as they were called in the Air Force were still the main uniform used by Air Police and were in service until early the 1970's. The distinctive white crush hat was standard as well.
Dark Blue Shirt
The dark blue long sleeve shirt was a standard issue item until the mid 1970's. It was adapted for wear with the SAC Elite guard by altering the shirt to short sleeves and worn until the retirement of SAC in 1992.
Adapted from the US Army the green utility uniform was the standard for security forces in the field and in Vietnam. This uniform continued through the mid 1980's.