Defending Team Whiteman 24/7, 365

Airman 1st Class Bernard Hyde, 509th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, sights down the scope of his M4 carbine while on patrol Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. As a defender, Hyde is responsible for staying vigilant and ready to respond to any threat 24/7, 365 days a year, holidays included. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Airman 1st Class Bernard Hyde, 509th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, sights down the scope of his M4 carbine while on patrol Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. As a defender, Hyde is responsible for staying vigilant and ready to respond to any threat 24/7, 365 days a year, holidays included. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

A security forces patrolman uses radar to ensure members of the community are within
the speed limits Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Individuals who are issued citations may be assessed points, and driving privileges may be suspended due to points incurred over a period of time. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

A security forces patrolman uses radar to ensure members of the community are within the speed limits Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Individuals who are issued citations may be assessed points, and driving privileges may be suspended due to points incurred over a period of time. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Staff Sgt. Dan Parsons, 509th Security Forces Squadron law enforcement area supervisor, and Airman 1st Class Christopher Anderson, 509th SFS security forces specialist, contact other patrolmen on base during a training exercise Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Security forces members participate in several different types of training exercises throughout each year to prepare for various threats and base emergencies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Staff Sgt. Dan Parsons, 509th Security Forces Squadron law enforcement area supervisor, and Airman 1st Class Christopher Anderson, 509th SFS security forces specialist, contact other patrolmen on base during a training exercise Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Security forces members participate in several different types of training exercises throughout each year to prepare for various threats and base emergencies. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Airman 1st Class Pang Yang, 509th Security Forces Squadron security forces specialist, looks down the scope of an M4 carbine during a training exercise Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The scope and iron sights of the M4 carbine allow members to aim at targets for maximum accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Airman 1st Class Pang Yang, 509th Security Forces Squadron security forces specialist, looks down the scope of an M4 carbine during a training exercise Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The scope and iron sights of the M4 carbine allow members to aim at targets for maximum accuracy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Airman 1st Class Paul Swanegan, 509th Security Forces Squadron security forces specialist, checks identification cards at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Dec. 6. More than 12,000 people enter the gates on a daily basis.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Airman 1st Class Paul Swanegan, 509th Security Forces Squadron security forces specialist, checks identification cards at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Dec. 6. More than 12,000 people enter the gates on a daily basis. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Airmen from the 509th Security Forces Squadron check identification cards as vehicles
enter Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Dec. 6. On average, more than 12,000 people enter Whiteman’s gates each day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Airmen from the 509th Security Forces Squadron check identification cards as vehicles enter Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Dec. 6. On average, more than 12,000 people enter Whiteman’s gates each day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing discuss procedures for a training exercise Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. These training exercises ensure security forces members are ready and enabled to provide constant security for base assets that total more than $46 billion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

Airmen from the 509th Bomb Wing discuss procedures for a training exercise Dec. 5 at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. These training exercises ensure security forces members are ready and enabled to provide constant security for base assets that total more than $46 billion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Nick Wilson) (Released)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- As the sun rises on Christmas day, hundreds of children living on Whiteman Air Force Base run down the stairs to tear open the gifts Santa has left under the tree, while their parents smile at their unadulterated joy.

Meanwhile, at the base's main gate, Airmen from the 509th Security Forces Squadron stand ready, protecting Air Force assets and providing security as families celebrate their holiday traditions.

"This base is unique in [the] sense that we support the nation's only B-2 fleet, so our security has to be capable of supporting that, as well," said Staff Sgt. Dan Parsons, 509th SFS law enforcement area supervisor. "It takes a balancing act to fulfill the base's mission and the community's expectations."

A balancing act that continues 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - holidays included.

And while people across the nation are partying on New Year's Eve, watching as the ball drops in Times Square, Whiteman's Defenders remain on guard, keeping the base, its people and its assets safe, secure and effective.

"The nation, Air Force and community rely on us to protect those assets," Parsons said.

Working during the holidays presents some difficulties for Defenders, including forgoing many of the opportunities Airmen in other career fields may be able to enjoy.

"Our Airmen have to go sometimes without that precious time with family," Parsons said. "They have to skip out on big meals. Sometimes their family will be in town and they don't have the opportunity to visit with them."

As Defenders respond to the call of duty, especially during this holiday season, they embody one Air Force core value in particular - service before self.

"As Defenders, we have to understand that the mission does come first," Parsons said. "In order to meet mission requirements, we have to be able to make sacrifices."

Making sacrifices for a mission that never sleeps means Defenders must be ready to respond at any time.

"We have to be prepared for the worst," said Airman 1st Class Christopher Anderson, 509th Security Forces Squadron security forces specialist. "We can get recalled at two or three in the morning. So it's our responsibility to be able to function and complete our duties whenever we're needed."

To Anderson, being a Defender means more than just coming to work and protecting the people and resources on base. Being an Airman and Defender gives him a patriotic pride.

"I do my job not only for my base, but to keep my country safe," Anderson said.

A great deal of focus and mental toughness is required to meet job requirements, as the security forces career field is both physically and mentally demanding.

"We need to be able to endure the long hours we work and understand that we're not going to be able to get [holidays] off when we want to," Anderson said. "We have to remain vigilant and keep our heads in the game."

Being alert at all times is a crucial aspect of serving as a Defender at Whiteman. Holding each other accountable to standards and Air Force core values is an important part of the SFS mission.

"Security forces Airmen understand that they must uphold the highest levels of professionalism," Parsons said. "The public entrusts them to do just that, and therefore, they have to stay mentally and physically sharp to meet any challenge."

As the winter holidays continue, Airmen from the 509th SFS stand ready to answer their nation's call.

"We keep our Airmen on their toes all the time, especially during the holidays," Parsons said. "At Whiteman, we are in direct support of any type of global conflict at any time."

So, as you come on base during the holidays, or pass a Defender in the BX parking lot, be sure to say thanks, and remember the Airmen who are keeping you safe this holiday season.

(Editor's Note: This feature is part of a five-part series entitled "Working through the Holidays," highlighting Whiteman Airmen and units who continue to perform the mission throughout the holiday season).