The average workday for many security forces airmen, the Air Force equivalent of military police, often involves standing around at the base gate checking service members’ identification. But every once in a while, things rapidly become very real, sometimes at speeds above 100 miles per hour. At least, that’s what Senior Airman Sarah Hardy experienced on Dec. 16 when she was patrolling Patrick Space Force Base, Florida.
A member of the 45th Security Forces Squadron, Hardy was checking out the on-base parking lot at Pineda Beach when she saw a suspicious-looking Chevrolet Silverado, according to an Air Force press release published Thursday. Hardy asked the base’s security forces operations controller, Staff Sgt. Matthew Dusek, to run the license plate number through a crime database while she pulled up behind the car.
While Dusek checked the numbers, the Chevrolet left the parking lot towards Pineda Causeway, a highway that connects mainland Florida to the island on which Patrick Space Force Base is located. Hardy followed in her own vehicle, and shortly afterward Dusek found that the Chevrolet had been reported stolen, along with a handgun and two magazines that were inside.
“When I heard that the vehicle was stolen, I turned on my overhead lights,” said Hardy. “The vehicle immediately sped off in an erratic manner turning onto Pineda Causeway.”
If it was at all surreal to go from routine patrolling to a high-speed car chase, Hardy appeared to give no sign.
“Our speeds reached well over 100 mph,” Hardy recalled. “The vehicle was driving erratically and weaving in and out of traffic, but I was focused, and my training took over.”
Dusek meanwhile may have been sweating bullets.
“It was a stressful situation,” he said. “I immediately let her know that they were likely armed with a weapon.”
Dusek requested help from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, but until they arrived Hardy was on her own. Luckily the chase did not last much longer. At about 7:30 p.m., after roughly two miles of pursuit, the Chevrolet collided with a Toyota Tundra and then crashed into a concrete guardrail before stopping. It was not the end of the danger though: Hardy was told there was a gun inside the car, so she stepped outside and took cover with her own Sig Sauer 9mm drawn. Luckily, local sheriff’s deputy Dylan Weber arrived quickly.
“Me and Weber had all occupants of the vehicle exit one by one,” Hardy said. “Then we instructed them to [assume] a kneeling position at the rear of the vehicle until backup arrived.”
Two more deputies arrived a few minutes later, at which point they told each suspect to walk backwards towards them so that Hardy could handcuff each one. Then they swept the Chevrolet, where they detected a smell of marijuana and a handgun on the passenger side floorboard with two loaded magazines, Hardy said. Afterward, they checked on the Tundra driver, who was shaken but refused medical attention, the press release said.
For Hardy to chase a speeding car down a highway at breakneck speeds without colliding into another vehicle speaks to the training she received in preparation for that moment. While the standard pipeline for Air Force defenders does not include vehicle pursuit training, two security forces airmen who spoke with Task & Purpose said that some bases require it when defenders arrive there. One recent press release said that security forces airmen must also complete a minimum of 218 training hours annually.
Airmen can choose which skills to train on for a small chunk of those hours, and past Air Force news stories show that pursuit vehicle training is sometimes an option. For example, one story from 2021 described how security forces airmen at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida learned from local police how to use a grappler net that launches from the front fender of a patrol car and wraps around the tires of a runaway vehicle. Another story from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska showed how local police taught defenders how to chase down other cars in the snowy, icy conditions of an Alaskan winter.
No matter what level of training Hardy received prior to her December chase, it clearly was effective. “Hardy did an outstanding job,” said Tech Sgt. Casey Klask, flight sergeant for the 45th Security Forces Squadron. “I couldn’t have handled it any better.”