Air Force 'Top Cop' Retires After Four Decades
By Chief Master Sgt. Gary Emery, Air Force Print News, 20 March 2000.
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas -- An Air Force Security Forces legend hung up his beret after a "heroic and remarkable career" March 16, when the Air Force retired its longest-serving active-duty member ever during ceremonies here.
Photo: U.S. Air Force
Brig. Gen. Richard Coleman, the former director of Security Forces and commander, Air Force Security Forces Center, exited Lackland's parade field -- and the Air Force -- after 43 years, four months and two days of enlisted and commissioned service. Gen. John P. Jumper, Air Combat Command commander, presided over the retirement and a change of command ceremony in which Coleman relinquished his command to Brig. Gen. (Sel.) James M. Shamess.
More than 1,000 security forces members, including military working dog teams, participated in a parade honoring Coleman. Also on display were security forces members wearing uniforms representing the many types the Air Force's "top cop" wore throughout his long career. A mounted horse patrol -- a Coleman innovation used at Howard Air Force Base, Panama to efficiently protect Air Force people and facilities in dense jungle areas -- stood on display in stark contrast beside high-tech up-armored High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles.
A security forces professional throughout his career, Coleman is credited with transforming the role of Air Force security forces from primarily law enforcement to combat-ready force protection. As director of Security Forces, Coleman presided over the consolidation of the career field, which formerly consisted of separate law enforcement, air base defense and combat arms specialties. In addition, Coleman is noted for having established a single "Defensor Fortis" (defender of the force) beret flash for all security forces members, which is worn on the blue beret.
In 1956, Coleman enlisted in the still-young Air Force as an air policeman. For the next 15 years, he served around the world as an enlisted security specialist. In 1972, Coleman earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice through the Bootstrap Commissioning Program and was commissioned as a distinguished graduate of Officer Training School. He served two tours in Vietnam and was the officer in charge of security forces at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam in 1975 during the evacuation of Saigon at war's end.
Addressing the security forces troops massed on the parade field, Coleman told them "I couldn't be prouder to have been associated with you. The air planners know that anywhere our Air Force goes today, it will have a world-class security force along with it."