Protection through detection

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Richard S. Crim
  • 81st Security Forces Squadron
I remember the words on the signs like it was yesterday. All of the business marquees outside of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, read "Where is Adam?" There were billboards offering rewards and advertisements in newspapers requesting information to the whereabouts of 4-year old Adam Finch.

The year was 1997 and I had just arrived at my first duty station, Tyndall. I would soon find out who exactly Adam was as I served on a search party combing the land on the base where Adam lived.

As a security policeman, our unit had a vested interest in finding Adam because he went missing under our watch. We worked tirelessly to continue normal operations while also serving on search teams on our days off. I'm pretty sure I worked without a day off for my first 3-months upon arriving at Tyndall. But it didn't matter. Nobody complained because one of our own needed to be found.

Adam was the 4-year old son of Tech. Sgt. John Finch.Finch was assigned to Tyndall and living in base housing with his family. Adam "Wiggly" Finch liked to ride his bicycle outside in the neighborhood like any other little boy. He was also intrigued by the construction projects nearby.

On Aug. 6, 1996, Adam would go for what would be known as his final bike ride. His bicycle would never be recovered.

The disappearance of Adam sparked a massive search to include a feature presentation on the television show America's Most Wanted.

A prime suspect was named who worked near the Finch residence on base. He was a 46-year old civilian contractor who shot himself a few days after Adam went missing and it was later determined he was wanted for questioning a week prior to Adam's abduction for the molestation of two children in his trailer park where he lived near Tyndall.

The man also owned another residence in Pensacola, Florida, where he returned to when not working on the base. This bit of information would prove relevant to Adam's case when his skeletal remains were discovered on a piece of land between Tyndall and the man's residence in Pensacola on March 25, 1998. Witnesses later confirmed the man had befriended Adam just days before his disappearance.

The loss of Adam has resonated with me throughout my entire career. However, it wasn't until recently that it became a part of my daily thoughts again.

A few months ago, I assumed supervision over the Defense Biometrics Identification System. This is the handheld scanner the guards use at the gates to check your ID cards every day when you enter the installation. Most people are unaware of its true capability and the service it provides us.

That has been evident to me since recently I have received many comments regarding DBIDS and the inconvenience it causes to personnel entering the installation.

In response, I feel it is my responsibility to educate Team Keesler on its importance and why the perceived inconvenience is justified.

DBIDS was designed to scan an ID card between 4-6 seconds. This is the same time it takes a defender to look at both sides of the card, check the expiration date and confirm the photo against the person presenting it, however, the difference between the capability of the scanner and the defender is immense.

The scanner accesses a database containing information regarding the person such as if they are wanted for questioning, possess active criminal warrants, if their driving privileges are suspended, if they are barred from base, armed and dangerous, etc. This is vital information that a gate guard cannot determine by simply looking at the ID card.
A prime example of the importance of the program is the death of Adam Finch.

The suspect who most likely abducted and killed Adam was wanted for questioning by authorities regarding his behavior with children the week prior to Adam's disappearance.
If DBIDS was in existence on Aug. 6, 1996, the suspect would have been detained at Sabre Gate when he attempted entry onto Tyndall. As a result, Adam would still be alive today, 22-years old and possibly serving in uniform like his father once did.

He didn't get a chance to enjoy life and it could have all been prevented by a system called DBIDS. A system which has a negative reputation and lacks the appreciation it truly deserves. This system provides each of us a layer of detection around the clock that cannot be matched by any defender.

As the father of a 3-year old boy and the DBIDS program manager for the 81st Security Forces Squadron, I take a personal interest in keeping it fully operational in order to protect every member of Team Keesler. This includes your children riding their bikes in base housing every day.

I refuse to allow any of you to endure the pain that Tech. Sgt. John Finch experienced; not on my watch. So, the next time you get upset with the traffic at the gates, I ask you to remain patient and remember little Adam Finch.