News: Duty: Its music to his ears
Story by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
Master Sgt. Robert Simpson’s story: Part 8 of Gunfighter Defender series.
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho – If war were a symphony, then many would routinely be serenaded to sleep by the gentle sounds of mortar fire and explosions.
‘Boom…boom…boom,’ could take the form of the bass section, keeping rhythm like a heartbeat. The ‘ratta-tatting’ of a .50-cal at a combat outpost may be the mid-range, and the shriek of a might F-15E Strike Eagle could play treble.
But war’s not a symphony and service members place their lives into the hands of their teams each time they step foot outside their COP or forward operating base.
Master Sgt. Robert Simpson, 366th Security Forces Squadron logistics superintendent, knows this fact well, as he personally provided security on 18 combat patrols during one deployment alone.
While deployed to the 455th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Simpson, an 18-year Air Force veteran, executed duties as the Army’s Base Defense Operations Center battle noncommissioned officer, securing 20 square kilometers of battle space.
Simpson was well prepared for the task and trained as a Phoenix Raven team leader, emergency medical technician, FBI crisis negotiator, active shooter threat instructor, and an advanced trained Krav Maga (Israeli martial arts) instructor.
Simpson also deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, as an anti-terrorism expert.
“I relied heavily on my specialized training and incorporated an entire career of training into my deployment,” said Simpson, who worked nearly 18 hours a day performing combat missions and developing random anti-terrorism measures on the Forward Operating Base.
His hard work and long hours paid off.
“I was able to directly facilitate critical airbase security missions that were immensely vital to the execution of unimpeded and fluid combat missions,” he said.
In a combat environment, things can go from relatively tranquil to utter hell in the matter of minutes, which made every mission off base a challenge for Simpson, and the airmen and soldiers he worked with.
Simpson’s team interacted with Afghans in their villages and on their turf.
“We talked to individual of different villages face-to-face. This was always an issue of concern because there was no way to tell who were the good guys and who were the bad guys,” he said. “We never knew if they had weapons or explosives on them.”
Fortunately Simpson, a self-proclaimed music lover, returned to Mountain Home Air Force Base physically unscathed by war, but admits the ‘symphony’ is never far away, and knows he can be called upon to return at any time.
For that reason, Simpson makes it his goal every day to stay ready to fight, and if any Airman he leads is not quite ‘war ready’ yet, Simpson takes it to heart and does whatever he must to get them ready.
Editor's note: This is Part 8 of series on 366th SFS Defenders. Be prepared to read the riveting stories of other brave Defenders in the coming weeks.