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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — The only differences between Navy and Air Force security forces at Misawa soon will be a hat, a T-shirt and a badge.

By late fall, the Navy’s security unit at Misawa will merge into the Air Force 35th Security Forces, creating one joint security command.

The change creates a stronger, more ready force, planners say, while helping the sailors and airmen learn how to work together.

The two groups have worked closely for years. As a tenant on the air base, the Navy supplied personnel to Air Force security. After Sept. 11, 2001, demand for security swelled, and the sailors became a routine feature in patrols.

The system worked so well, Navy leaders decided three months ago to push the arrangement further and fully integrate the command.

The merge saves money and ensures that if the Air Force security is called away, the Navy seamlessly can take its place. It also frees personnel for more specialized work, such as investigations.

“Consolidation eliminates a lot of duplication,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer William J. Norton, assistant security officer for Naval Air Facility Misawa.

Security forces serve a large base role. They guard the physical structures, do force protection, investigate crimes and patrol streets.

The Navy and Air Force have integrated security forces at other bases, where both services have a large presence, including stateside installations at Tinker, Travis and Andrews Air Force Bases.

All service branches send their security personnel through the same school in the United States to receive identical instruction and standards.

“We go through the same training; that’s why integration is much easier,” said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Allibone, 35th Security Forces Squadron’s operations supervisor.

Regarding the integration, Tech. Sgt. Darrin Ulmer, mid-shift flight chief for Misawa’s Security Forces Bravo Flight, said he thought it would be more difficult. “I was kind of surprised. But they are professionals.”

A few administrative hurtles remain, such as working out who completes evaluations, which the services do differently. But any future changes will take place at the staff level, said Lt. Ray Owens, NAF Misawa security officer.

When there are differences, the two groups compromise. “We kind of find a middle ground,” Ulmer said.

The sailors and airmen are enjoying the arrangement, especially learning the different service quirks like vocabulary. A deck to a sailor is a floor to an airman.

“It’s a source of amusement,” Owens said.

The experience will help servicemembers in other joint commands and during deployments where service branches usually work together.

“This is really the future,” Owens said. “Eventually all bases will be joint.”


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