The SAC Elite Guard was a United States Air Police unit established in December, 1956 to provide security at the headquarters of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) of the United States Air Force, as well as personal protection for the Commander and Vice Commander of SAC.
The Elite Guard was formed under a signed order from General Curtis LeMay, who was instrumental in modernizing USAF security forces in general and the Strategic Air Command in particular. At the creation of the USAF in 1947, aircraft were normally guarded by security detachments formed from airdrome or air base squadrons. In many cases "guard duty" was a detail or extra duty and not a full-time job, often given out as punishment to underperforming personnel. Security and weapons training was minimal or nonexistent. During his initial inspection of the SAC strategic bomber fleet at Offutt Air Force Base in 1948, LeMay reported that at one hangar he found an Air Police sentry on duty "armed only with a ham sandwich". The exigencies of the Korean War imposed additional delays in retraining and reequipping SAC personnel. Despite these problems, LeMay continued to press for improvements in air base and SAC command security, and proposed the formation of an elite Air Police unit in charge of SAC command security at Offutt Air Force Base. In 1956, after the existing SAC Provost Marshal failed to act with sufficient dispatch in forming the new unit, LeMay replaced him, instituting changes in SAC security force structure that resulted in the creation of the Elite Guard in December 1956.
Mission, Organization, and Equipment
The Elite Guards' mission was threefold. Primarily, Detachment “A” would be responsible to provide stringent security for the SAC Headquarters and its resources. The second portion of their mission was to provide personal protection for the Commander and Vice Commander in chief of the Strategic Air Command and their assembled staff. It also had a third, ceremonial function: acting as an official Strategic Air command representative at military and civic functions requiring military unit participation, with an official drill team.
In 1957 General LeMay, General Wade, and the Commander for the 3902nd Air Police Squadron personally selected and procured a distinctive uniform. The initial summer uniform was a tan herringbone twill (khaki) trousers and shirts, which was changed in 1960 to a dark blue shirt and trousers. The winter uniform included a dark blue Eisenhower jacket. White silk scarves, blue canvas web belt with chrome buckle and SAC crest, a white lanyard on the right shoulder, white gloves, and black jump boots with white laces completed the unique Guard uniform. Instead of the then-standard .45 M1911 pistol, at General LeMay's insistence the Guardsmen were armed with a special bone-handled, chrome-plated .38-caliber revolver secured in a black leather, open-top, cross-draw holster. The new uniform included a blue serge wool beret with affixed SAC patch, making the Elite Guard the first Air Force unit authorized (from 1957 onwards) to wear the blue beret. The blue beret became the prototype for the headgear later introduced for wear by all Air Force security forces.
Through the years, changes in Air Force dress standards necessitated changing the colors and combination of this unique uniform. While the drill team was disbanded in 1969, the guard’s primary mission continued with added responsibility for the monthly Changing of the Guard ceremony, funeral details, civic events and formal military functions.
The Strategic Air Command stood down in 1992, with USSTRATCOM replacing the Command.
- Pinckney, Kali, Defensor Fortis: A Brief History of Usaf Security and Those Dedicated Few Who Defend the Air Force at the Ground Level, Universal Publishers Press, ISBN 1-58112-554-2, ISBN 978-1-58112-554-2 (2003), pp. 37-38
- Watson, George M., Secretaries and Chiefs of Staff of the United States Air Force, Washington, D.C.: Air Force History and Museums Program, USAF (2001) p. 132: LeMay raged in a memo that "this afternoon I found a man guarding a hangar with a ham sandwich. There will be no more of that."
- Meyer, Herbert L. (Maj.), A Perspective By Major Herbert Meyer, (1957-1964)
- Elite Guard - Summer Uniform
- Elite Guard Uniform, 1962
- Elite Guard - Winter Uniform
- Balcer, Ray (Col.), HQ SAC Elite Guard April, 2005
- Balcer, Ray (Col.), HQ SAC Elite Guard April, 2005
- Pinckney, Kali, Defensor Fortis: A Brief History of USAF Security And Those Dedicated Few Who Defend the Air Force At The Ground Level, Universal Publishers Press, ISBN 1-58112-554-2, ISBN 978-1-58112-554-2 (2003), pp. 37-38
- Pinckney, Kali, Defensor Fortis: A Brief History of USAF Security And Those Dedicated Few Who Defend The Air Force At The Ground Level, Universal Publishers Press, ISBN 1-58112-554-2, ISBN 978-1-58112-554-2 (2003), pp. 37-38
- Balcer, Ray (Col.), HQ SAC Elite Guard, April 2005
- Meilahn, Luther, The Elite Guard, The Klaxon, May 1994, p. 8
- World's Smartest-Looking Airmen Celebrate A Birthday, Omaha Evening World-Herald, 1 May 1962, p. 16: In May 1962, the Evening World-Herald covered the fifth-year anniversary celebration of the SAC Elite Guard, complete with a photo of the ceremony clearly showing the Guardsmen in their signature blue wool berets and bone-handled .38 revolvers.
SAC Elite Guard video http://www.asterpix.com/console/?avi=11334351
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