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Chiefs, first sergeant earn honorary berets

Chief Master Sgt. Holly Burke, 66th Medical Squadron superintendent, completes a combative drill after being sprayed with oleoresin capsicum, also known as pepper spray, during a 66th Security Forces Honorary Beret Program at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Nov. 12. Burke also experienced a five-second taser and caught a military working dog from inside a bite suit to better understand the requirement of security forces defenders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

Chief Master Sgt. Holly Burke, 66th Medical Squadron superintendent, completes a combative drill after being sprayed with oleoresin capsicum, also known as pepper spray, during a 66th Security Forces Honorary Beret Program at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Nov. 12. Burke also experienced a five-second taser and caught a military working dog from inside a bite suit to better understand the requirement of security forces defenders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

Chief Master Sgt. William Hebb, installation command chief, is sprayed oleoresin capsicum, also known as pepper spray, during a 66th Security Forces Squadron Honorary Beret Program training at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Nov. 12. The program allows personnel an in-depth look at the required trainings of security forces defenders to earn their berets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

Chief Master Sgt. William Hebb, installation command chief, is sprayed oleoresin capsicum, also known as pepper spray, during a 66th Security Forces Squadron Honorary Beret Program training at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., Nov. 12. The program allows personnel an in-depth look at the required trainings of security forces defenders to earn their berets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Senior enlisted leaders here participated in the 66th Security Forces Squadron’s Honorary Beret Program to experience firsthand some of the capabilities and training of defenders earlier this month.

Chief Master Sgts. William Hebb and Holly Burke, installation command chief and 66th Medical Squadron superintendent respectively, as well as Master Sgt. Sara Wright, 66 SFS first sergeant, experienced a five-second taser, caught a military working dog from inside a bite suit, and completed an obstacle course after receiving a dose of oleoresin capsicum spray, also known as pepper spray.

Security Forces personnel are required to complete the same three tasks to receive their berets.

“The beret is a symbol of our commitment to public service, and the countless sacrifices willingly made to honor that commitment, up to and including laying down one’s own life to protect the lives of others,” said Chief Master Sgt. Justin Geers, 66 SFS manager.

Geers said they’re inviting leaders to participate to help participants fully understand what’s asked of 66 SFS defenders and augmentees.  

“It was tough and challenging, but it was very rewarding to see what our defenders go through in their training,” said Hebb.

He said the most difficult portion of the training was the OC spray, noting the effects of the spray not only impacted his abilities to complete the obstacles, but lingered long after the training.

“I now have an even higher appreciation for what our defenders go through to protect our communities,” Hebb said. “Whether they’re at the gates, on patrol, or serving overseas, they are absolute warriors.”

Wright completed her initiation in August 2020 after taking over as the squadron’s first sergeant as a way to connect with her Airmen. She said participating in the training has bonded her with her team, and given her an even deeper look into their day-to-day responsibilities.

“It changes your perspective when you remember our defenders could potentially need to use those trainings at any time,” said Wright. “They don’t get to pick what they respond to or the circumstances around it. They have to be ready at all times to protect themselves, each other, and our community.”

Following the trainings, Hebb, Burke, and Wright officially received their honorary berets, and said they would encourage those invited to participate in the program to do so.

“We can’t lose sight of what our Security Forces personnel do for our community,” said Hebb. “We have absolute professionals here who are constantly training to be the best they can be.”