EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — Students at Eglin Elementary School will have another friendly face to greet them each morning as they enter the school. Staff Sgt. Justin Hogg from the 96th Security Forces Squadron was recently hired as the elementary’s school resource officer.
The move comes on the heels of a new and innovative way the 96th SFS are implementing community policing and securing the installation.
Maj. Jason Williams, the 96th SFS commander, said he is eager to help students build trust with law enforcement through this program.
“The goal of the program is to provide a safe learning environment for Eglin’s youth, by fostering a positive relationship and developing strategies to resolve problems affecting them and their families,” Williams said.
Security forces first approached the school in mid-November to assess the needs of the school and quickly started the selection process for the elementary’s first SRO whose duties will primarily revolve around the school’s overall safety.
Hogg was chosen through a rigorous selection process that included a move to a completely different flight within the squadron where he competed against a number of highly qualified individuals for the SRO position.
The Airman will not only provide a higher level of security for the students and faculty, he will also be implementing several programs other campuses in Okaloosa receive such as anti-bullying training, and Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
“I am looking forward to getting to know the students and building the kind of relationships where they feel comfortable enough to talk to me about anything,” said the 29-year-old, South Carolina native. “It is important the students see police officers as the ‘good guys’ and we are approachable.”
According to the Air Force Security Forces Center, Hogg is the first SRO and paves the way for other installations with campuses within the base perimeter. Eglin Elementary School is a part of the Okaloosa County School District and its presence on the base provides certain benefits and challenges.
One of the challenges is they do not have a direct line of communication with the base regarding activities, exercises that would affect the students, and even up-to-date base weather conditions.
Dennis Samac, the Eglin Elementary School principal, said he is pleased to now have that link with the base through Hogg.
“We are thrilled to have him (Hogg) on our campus, not only working with the student body, but also as a direct line of communication when it comes to issues on base that might impact our students,” Samac said.
Eglin Elementary School is currently the only school in the district without an Okaloosa deputy sheriff walking the campus, so the addition of Hogg would mean 100 percent of the county’s schools have an added level of security.
Hogg must complete several SRO courses before taking post at a school and he will be job-shadowing several of the Okaloosa campuses within the next few months.
The seven-year veteran will also be a staple within the base community throughout the summer, visiting the child development centers and the youth center to further teach students about safety and the functions of police officers with K-9 demonstrations and stranger awareness briefings.
The school is ready to draw on Hogg’s expertise and is happy to include him as the “face of safety” on campus while adding another layer of support to its students.