Guard Soldiers Learn Military Police Skills
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo., March 1, 2004 Spc. Michael Speed is about to become one of the new sheriffs in town. So are Spcs. David Dillivan and Billy McCormick. So are nearly 200 more Army National Guard artillery soldiers from Tennessee who, this month, will join active Army military police forces a long way from their homes.
Those citizen-soldiers from Tennessee's 2nd Battalion, 115th Field Artillery, have been reclassified as military police officers after four weeks of nonstop training here because, for the time being, the Army needs a lot more MPs than it needs artillery troops to help wage the global war against terrorism.
Military police officers have to be able to cope with combat in an urban environment. So Tennessee Army National Guard artillery soldiers being reclassified as MPs could not let the smoke get in their eyes during their training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., in February. Photo by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, National Guard Bureau, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
That's why the 200 Guard soldiers from the battalion's Alpha and Charlie companies in Lexington and Bolivar, Tenn., have left behind their 155 mm howitzers so they can spend the next year or so protecting military families and installations in Germany and Hawaii replacing active duty military police officers who have been sent to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
All told, nearly 1,000 Army Guard soldiers from 10 artillery companies out of Missouri, Illinois, Texas and Tennessee have earned their military police crests, which feature the dutiful works "assist, protect, defend," following a month of training at the U.S. Army Military Police School. The Tennessee troops are the last of that lot that began training Nov. 24, 2003.
Many staff sergeants and sergeants first class have spent an additional 17 days in basic and advanced noncommissioned officer courses so they can serve as enlisted leaders at the company and battalion levels. Artillery officers also have been schooled in commanding military police personnel.
Soldiers in another eight Army Guard companies from New Jersey, West Virginia, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico and Arizona are expected to begin converting to MPs here beginning in October.
They are considered "provisional" MPs, it was explained, because they will become artillery soldiers again when their tours of duty are through. But they do not graduate, and earn their crests, until they learn all five basic functions that most Army's new MPs learn during eight weeks of advanced individual training.
These Guard soldiers have had to do all of that in a single month under the demanding tutelage of 70 Army Reserve soldiers, including 53 trainers, who are part of The Army School System's 2nd Battalion, 100th Military Police, from Nashville, Tenn.
In February, the Tennessee Reserve outfit taught Tennessee Guard soldiers.
The reservists are under the active Army's 14th Military Police Brigade, commanded by Col. Joseph Rapone II. About half of the training NCOs are civilian law officers, and most of them have become seasoned MPs during the Persian Gulf War or while serving in such places as Panama, Bosnia and Kosovo, it was explained.
"This story is being written by National Guard soldiers who have answered their country's call on a moment's notice and who are being converted from field artillery to military police," Rapone observed. "They are being trained by an Army Reserve unit that is assigned to an active duty military police brigade on an active duty installation. That's the total force magic of all this."
It is a total-force commitment, because the National Guard includes 33 percent of the Army's Military Police Corps, and the Army Reserve has another 23 percent, said Lt. Col. Starrleen Heinen, the military police school's deputy assistant commandant for the Army Guard.
"The Guard is getting another 13,370 MPs by 2011. We are the active Army's rotational force," she said.
The magic has meant a lot of hard work and some eye-opening revelations about all that military police people really do, Guard soldiers said.
"It's been tough cramming all of this into four weeks," said Speed while taking a break from a long Monday afternoon of simulated combat at Fort Leonard Wood's village of concrete buildings. There, soldiers train in military operations in urban terrain better known as street-to-street and house-to-house fighting.
"I thought MPs just drove squad cars and worked the gates on Army posts and guarded enemy prisoners of war. I didn't know they got right into the fighting," added Speed.
There have been many surprises for the Guard soldiers as they have learned to handle themselves in a garrison and on a battlefield, which all MPs are expected to be ready to do, said Master Sgt. Jeffrey Pollard. He is a senior Reserve instructor and a bomb dog handler for the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
"We have to train them in all aspects of MP work, because they never know what kind of a duty station they'll be going to," Pollard said. "As far as we know right now, they'll be assigned to garrisons in Germany and Hawaii. But you never know when they might wind up in, say, Iraq."
Law and order, internment and resettlement, maneuver mobility support, area security and police intelligence are the five areas in which new MPs must have a fundamental knowledge, said Lt. Col. Randy Evans, the Reserve battalion's commander.
A 36-hour tactical operations exercise in the woods, when the students practiced and were evaluated on battlefield tasks, was their final exam.
The condensed training regimen has paid off, said Rapone. "The active duty provost marshals at posts in this country and in Germany who are receiving these National Guard soldiers tell me they are more than satisfied.
"Sure we'd like more time to train them," he added. "But if we weren't comfortable that four weeks were enough to give them the fundamental skills, we would have said so a long time ago."
Some Guard soldiers acknowledged they were not all that pleased about leaving their big guns to become MPs. Most, however, quickly got into the spirit of their new mission for a couple of reasons. They learned to trust their trainers. They began to feel like MPs.
"These instructors are great. They focus on the book, but they're realistic at the same time, because they've done this for real," said David Dillivan. "They tell us what they would do if they were in a certain situation."
"These Guard soldiers begin to stand a little taller and to look a little sharper midway into the second week. That's when they begin to think of themselves as MPs," said the Reserve battalion's Command Sgt. Maj. Bert Beckham.
"That's when we began learning how to respond to domestic violence situations and to investigate rape scenes," explained Speed, who had nearly transferred to the Florida Army Guard before learning that his Tennessee company had been mobilized for MP duty and would be sent to Hawaii.
Nobody wanted to quit by the end of week two, said Dillivan, who joined the Guard after six years of active duty. "We've had guys battling sprained knees, bad ankles and the flu. They'll do anything to get through this course. My mother-in-law died two weeks ago, but I stayed here. I just couldn't leave."
Completing the course and earning the crest could also open some career doors. "I'm a construction worker," Speed explained. "But I've always wanted to get a job in law enforcement, maybe at the federal level, like a U.S. marshal. This course and the tour of duty in Hawaii will give me the experience to consider doing that."
(Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau, Arlington, Va.)