Profiles in Leadership: Commander behind Award-Winning Security Forces Squadron

165th Airlift Wing
Story by Tech. Sgt. Amber Williams

Date: 04.15.2019
Posted: 04.15.2019 22:15
News ID: 318243
Commander behind Award-Winning Security Forces Squadron

A self-proclaimed hard-nosed leader, Maj. Michelle Sabala, commander of the 165th Security Forces Squadron, believes in doing things by the book.

“I believe in discipline and making sure we meet and exceed standards,” said Sabala. “But then I also believe in rewarding people who are going above and beyond. We have to recognize our people and let them know they are appreciated.”

“I tell my Airmen they are awesome,” said Sabala. “But it's another thing if it’s coming from a higher level to say, ‘you’re doing a great job every single day.’”

Recently the 165th Security Forces Squadron was recognized as the 2018 Outstanding Security Forces Squadron by the Air National Guard and the same for the Reserve Component by the U.S. Air Force.

2018 proved to be a demanding a year for the Savannah-based squadron. “Our Ravens deployed to five continents, our combat arms Airmen trained more than 300 defenders for their pre-deployment training, we deployed for training to backfill active duty and participated in exercises with pararescue while we were there,” said Sabala.

The 165th SFS continuously fulfills requests from National Guard Bureau, Air Mobility Command and active duty in addition to supporting the needs of the Wing and local community. For instance, our security forces were some of the first on-scene after the devastating Puerto Rico Air National Guard C-130 crash off of Highway 21 last May.

Days following the crash, the Wing was still largely committed to a Department of Defense training opportunity known as an Innovative Readiness Training - locally known as Operation Empower Health. The community-driven IRT brought in more than 400 military medical professionals to provide no-cost healthcare to the citizens of Greater Savannah. During the two-week timespan, nearly 8,000 citizens received no-cost healthcare.

“Our defenders provided site surveys and advised on security matters for Operation Empower Health, which I think I can say was special for everyone involved; we were able to give back to the community in such a profound way,” said Sabala.

“You think about how much work our full-time guardsmen do, but it's still a full-time commitment for our ‘drill-status’ guardsmen as well, they step up for us all the time,” said Sabala.

Sabala initially enlisted into Security Forces then commissioned after eight years. As a fresh First Lieutenant Sabala was selected to be an instructor at the Officer Training School at Maxwell Air Force Base.

“As a brand new lieutenant I was ready to throw the book,” said Sabala. “But it wasn’t until I was an instructor that I learned the value of mentorship. I realized these people are sent here because someone saw something in them and thought they would make a great officer and a great leader.”

“From that experience, I learned any Airman can be turned into an all-star, as long as you’re willing to invest in them and as long as they are willing to put in the effort,” said Sabala.

Commander of the Mission Support Group, Col. Ronald Speir, said “from the moment I took command in October (2018), I’ve been nothing but impressed with Maj. Sabala and the Security Forces Squadron and the professional way they get the mission done and take care of their Airmen.”

“The Adjutant General of Georgia spoke to us recently, he emphasized that he is not just the TAG; he is the senior servant. That is how I feel too,” said Sabala. “I don’t execute the mission - my Airmen do and they do an excellent job. My job is to serve them to the best of my ability, to command is to serve.”