MAXWELL AFB, Ala.— Crime rates both in and around Air Force bases are dropping at a shocking rate, according to new police statistics released this week. Most are crediting the change to the roving bands of enlisted airmen that have been combing the streets attempting to find dangerous situations and crimes in progress.
The movement follows the announcement that the Air Force would promote Airman First Class Spencer Stone two ranks to Staff Sergeant due to his heroic efforts to stop a terrorist from gunning down passengers on a train in Paris. Other enlisted troops rushed to follow suit.
"Have you ever tried to study for a WAPS test?" Airman 1st Class Mark Cummings said as he zip-tied a shoplifter in Montgomery, Alabama, near his home of Maxwell AFB. "This is way easier, not to mention faster."
Cummings is not alone among airmen that see it as a ray of hope in a difficult evaluation environment.
"I'll never make staff sergeant on my own," another airman on scene said. "Can't do a pushup. But it doesn't take arm strength to taze an arsonist."
The crime-stopping spree is quickly creating other problems as well. Aside from security forces personnel having a disproportionate amount of downtime — which is ironically increasing the crime rate — the enlisted force is becoming too top heavy.
"When the Chief of Staff sets a precedent, you don't just say it's not a good way to do business," said Col. Maria Martinez, a group commander on Maxwell AFB. "You say 'this is the way it's always been done' and then make every effort to resist change. But in this case, it's really screwing things up. We've got master sergeants on kitchen duty, and there have been several fights between the new chiefs as to whose grass, exactly, the idiot lieutenants are walking across."
Some airmen have been going to extremes, giving their groups names similar to fighter squadrons and charging into high-crime areas. Other groups have been tapping into their military specialties to find new ways to stop evildoers. The "Heck Hounds" of Whiteman AFB, Mo., have been using off-duty Predator drones to launch Hellfire missiles at drivers that run red lights or drive too slowly in the left lane.
Airmen in underpopulated regions, however, are finding it hard to get ahead.
"This isn't fair," says Senior Airman Susan Miranda, currently stationed at Laughlin AFB, Texas, which shares property with the city of Del Rio, a small pocket of population alone in the vast desert of southwest Texas. "If I want to see another human being — never mind another human being that I can tackle to the ground because they're doing something illegal — I have to go to Mexico, and the DoD won't let us cross anymore."
She added: "It's like sitting right outside of a gold mine and not being able to go in. Things are so messed up in Tijuana, I could be a Chief in a day."
Back at the Heck Hounds, however, even officers have jumped into the fray.
"I don't mind helping," Lt. Clinton Barksdale, an officer and a drone pilot without whom the Heck Hounds would be unable to stop criminals. "It gives me something to do and is going to look great on my [performance report]."
When asked if he expected a promotion as well, Lt. Barksdale shook his head and solemnly explained that officers weren't promoted based on merit.