MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- The 35th Fighter Wing (FW) information protection (IP) office safeguards classified and controlled unclassified information, including anything from paper documents and safes to electronic media.
Lance Guedry, the 35 FW IP chief, explained how the information protection office serves the overall wing mission.
“If IP didn’t exist on base, administering background investigations would be challenging,” explained Guedry, who retired as a master sergeant after serving as a security forces Airman for 22 years. “Personnel require examinations at five- to 10- year intervals to ensure they meet minimal suitability and fitness standards.”
Background checks are a prerequisite for almost any job that involves the handling of sensitive information; without these investigations, the jobs would have to go unfilled.
"For personnel security, I analyze everyone's investigations according to tier levels," said Donald Kuehl, the 35th FW personnel security specialist, who also retired after 24 years as a senior master sergeant in security forces. "There are approximately 600 investigations yearly, and I ensure all background data is accurate before sending it off to the office of personnel management."
Not only would examination processes be affected if IP was to disappear, but classified material could also be disclosed, which would affect the defense of national interests from adversaries.
“From the information security side of the wing, there could be situations where classified material wouldn’t be completely safeguarded,” explained Guedry.
While most Airmen across base know the personnel in the IP office as the fingerprint scanners for security clearance background checks, the team of two Air Force civilians also encompasses the protection of informational, personnel and industrial security.
Each individual security section reviews materials within its own component, from reviewing classified storage protection and advising units on the process of contractors to properly training subsections on critical unclassified info.
Parallel with duties in their subsections, IP workers have many interactions with Airmen and commanders.
"Airmen should come to our office if they are a unit security manager or safe custodian," said Kuehl. "We teach those two positions how to safeguard and protect classified information for them to be able to conduct these duties within their units. There are two USM meetings annually for face-to-face conversations regarding mission interruptions."
Alongside protecting information, the 35 FW IP office operates hand-in-hand with the 35th Communications Squadron cybersecurity section to preserve sensitive data.
“We have a responsibility to control unclassified information, how it’s transmitted and what type of data is on networks across the installation,” said Guedry. “The safekeeping of materials is a joint effort with 35 CS to ensure everything is current. The dual work with communications personnel is vital because they’re responsible for the mechanisms utilized to transmit protected, unclassified and classified information to personnel needed to execute the mission.”
Though he is no longer wearing a uniform to work every day, Guedry enjoys being a part of the everyday Team Misawa mission.
“The IP community is made up of prior active duty Airmen across the Air Force,” grinned Guedry. “Being prior enlisted and continuing to carry on the mission I once participated in is something I take pride in.”