Village Within a Base Provides for Realistic Cop Training
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo., Aug. 14, 2000 "Role players ready," Rick Werts said into a microphone while keeping his eyes on a bank of monitors in a cramped, dark room.
Instructor Rich Werts critiques Special Reaction Team Training Course students' videotaped performance in a recent exercise at the U.S. Army Military Police School in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Photo by Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA.
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Seconds later, the building exploded with noise. Werts watched the monitors as a squad of military police students wearing helmets and face shields stormed into an innocent-looking suburban home. "Get on the ground! Down, down!" they screamed, quickly apprehending one suspect.
They found another hiding behind a trap door upstairs. Within three minutes they announced the building was clear.
Twenty minutes after that, the students were back in the classroom listening to a critique of their videotaped performance.
"You were stepping on each other all over those mics," David Reed told the group. "We talk about the confusion of battle and the fog of war, let's not add to it with our own radios."
Werts then referred them to the video screen and pointed out a serious error. The lead man had thrown in a mock stun grenade and immediately followed it through the doorway. A real M-84 diversionary device flashes a 2.5-million-candlepower light and a 175-decibel bang.
"You just blinded yourself," Werts told the errant student while watching the scene in front of him. "Somebody else would have had to go in for you."
Werts and Reed are instructors at the Army Military Police School here. The school provides basic military police training to soldiers and Marines, and advanced police training to members of all services, foreign militaries, and civilian law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Roughly 230 instructors will train a projected 12,900 students this year.
The jewel of the school is Brig. Gen. David Stem Village, a facility designed to provide realistic training in a dozen different situations police officers routinely face. Buildings in the village include two single-family homes, a duplex, credit union, post office, shoppette, movie theater, prison and a clinic. Rooms in other buildings are set up to look like a crack house, a nightclub and a home occupied by militia members.
The buildings are set up to look as realistic as possible. The post office has a bank of mail boxes, customer windows and "wanted" posters. The shoppette's shelves are stocked, and residences are completely furnished from cars in the driveways to clothes in the closets and stuffed animals in children's bedrooms.
The buildings may look ordinary, but they're not. They all have closed-circuit cameras for instructors to monitor and record all training. The interior walls are made of 3/4-inch-thick plywood instead of drywall to stand up to abuse. From a control room in each building, instructors can introduce sound, change lighting, and, in some cases, reconfigure walls.
"We want to simulate what they might experience in the real world," said Lee Chewey, chief of the school's Special Reaction Team Training Committee.
Instructors can even videotape the students' approach to a building. Chewey explained police officers need to keep three principles in mind when raiding a building: surprise; speed -- "Before anyone inside has time to react"; and aggressive action "to eliminate any threat against the officers."
He said videotaping training is invaluable in showing students their mistakes. "Sometimes they don't even believe they reacted a certain way," Chewey said. "But then we show them the videotape."
While training in Stem Village, students use "simunitions," basically paint pellets that sting and leave a hot-pink mark, but are generally harmlesss, he said.
Training in the Advanced Law Enforcement Training Division falls into three programs. The Counterdrug Training Program includes eight courses for agencies with drug-enforcement responsibilities. Chewey explained that most of the school's civilian law-enforcement students attend under this program. Federal counterdrug funds pay for the training, which is free to the civilian students, he said.
Courses for civilian officers focus heavily on land navigation, use of global positioning systems and patrol techniques. Chewey said military police generally are exposed to these skills in their military training, but many civilian officers have no training in these areas.
Civilian agencies are also allowed to use the facilities here for their own training needs during holiday periods, when the military doesn't schedule classes, he said. Civilian agencies often wait more than a year for a chance to train here.
The Anti-terrorism/Force Protection Training Program includes nine courses for DoD personnel who have anti-terrorism responsibilities. The program includes a special reaction team course and training in protective services, evasive driving and hostage negotiations.
Special reaction teams are the military's equivalent to SWAT teams. They're used for special situations that require higher skill levels than the usual patrolman has, said Army Col. Joel Himsl, the school's former director of combat developments and now the garrison commander here.
The Protective Service Training Course uses U.S. Secret Service doctrine to teach students to protect high-ranking officials. Students learn the basics of witness and VIP protection, evasive driving, and how to provide moving protection.
Protective service officers cringe when they hear the term "bodyguard." They like to think of themselves as much more, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Tom Carr, noncommissioned officer in charge of the school's Protective Service Committee.
"Bodyguards are there to react if something happens. We're more proactive," he said. "We want to prevent anything from happening. People joke and call us bullet stoppers, but we work to keep the bullets from being fired at all."
The school also has a Rehabilitation Training Instructor Course. It provides drill instructor training to federal, state and local civilian correctional agencies that have military-style boot camp programs for rehabilitating nonviolent youthful offenders.
Himsl explained the state-of-the-art facilities and realistic training here are vital to protect the lives of military police officers.
"It doesn't matter if we're in Haiti taking care of refugees or in Bosnia keeping the peace," he said. "You don't get a second chance to do things right."
For more information on the U.S. Army Military Police School, visit its Web site at http://www.wood.army.mil/usamps/default.htm. Take a virtual tour of Stem Village by visiting its Web site at http://www.wood.army.mil/usamps/.