Protecting the Boss: W.Va. Reservists Deploying to Afghanistan as Personal Security Detail

Spcs. Tyler Foster, Shane Delong and Jakob Mays are soldiers in the Army Reserve 363rd Military Police Company in Grafton, West Virginia.  This April they will deploy to Afghanistan.

The Army Reserve’s 363rd Military Police Company is headquartered in Grafton, West Virginia. This April, about 25 of the soldiers are heading to Afghanistan. Their mission will be protecting the life of a high-ranking U.S. officer. It’s called a personal security detail.

“We protect them in every aspect,” explained Specialist Jakob Mays. “We eat with them, we sleep when they sleep.  We make sure that wherever they’re going—whether by land or by air—is safe, both before we get there and before we leave.  We are their security.”

Mays said before he joined the Army reserves, he was a military policeman in the Marines for four years. Now he’s a customer service representative at a car dealership. His friend, Spc. Tyler Foster, will be on his first deployment, and is glad Mays is on the team.

“He really knows his stuff,” said Foster. “That’s what I like.”

Foster is an Elkin’s police officer in his civilian life. Military police are trained to diffuse tense situations before they get out of hand.  Foster’s experience as a full-time civilian police officer make him a valuable asset to the team.

“Dealing with civilians every day, it helps out a lot,” Foster said, “because I already know what’s going on, the right questions to ask, what all stuff you need to know to make the situation better.”

Staff Sgt. Aaron Allen (on the far left) tells his soldiers what it will be like to protect a high-ranking officer in Afghanistan.

Credit Chip Hitchcock
Staff Sgt. Aaron Allen (on the far left) tells his soldiers what it will be like to protect a high-ranking officer in Afghanistan.

Experience is also why the Army has brought in Staff Sgt. Aaron Allen from Easton, Pennsylvania.  He will be the non-commissioned officer in charge of the detail. He told his soldiers about his previous deployment as a team leader protecting a high-ranking officer.

“We had a ball our last tour,” said Allen, “When we weren’t moving the boss, we did a lot of recons.  Me and Sgt. Johnson probably know Kabul better than anybody I’ve met.  Who has been to Afghanistan?”

Only two of the West Virginia soldiers raised their hands.  To keep the energy up, Allen teased his soldiers about who had passed the difficult driving class and who had wrecked.  But he also gave them serious information about their tasks:

“We’ll probably split the team into two,” said Allen. “We’ll have a team for main body movement and a team for advances. Your advances, you go out ahead of the main body. You coordinate with whoever the boss is meeting with, making sure things are good to go. Advances are fun.”

Spc. Shane Delong is originally from Ohio. He moved to West Virginia when he was in middle school to live with his grandmother who was working at the FBI complex in Clarksburg.

“I like it here – slower pace and more relaxed,” said Delong. “I tried working in a steel factory in Ohio but it doesn’t feel like home.”

Delong is married now and has a six-year old daughter. I asked him if he thought he might be deployed when he joined up.

“Yes, it was always in my head that I could go,” Delong said. “I’m excited. No one is excited about leaving their wife and kid, but they do support it.” 

Most of the soldiers have been – or are about to go – to Personal Security Detail school for military police. During the next two months they’ll practice those skills while learning to trust one another in tense situations. Then in April, it’s time for Afghanistan.