Military Police Safeguard the Pentagon
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2002 The mission began with fire and smoke, chaos and confusion. For the first time in history, terrorists had attacked the Pentagon. In the immediate aftermath, defense officials called on the Army's military police to help restore security and safeguard the military headquarters.
Since Sept. 11, Army National Guard and active duty military police have been standing watch, manning Humvees and guard posts, helping to protect the Pentagon. While some units are now standing down, others are taking over this vital national security mission. Such rotations are a routine part of military service around the world.
"It was an amazing thing to be part of," Army Sgt. Robert Glasgow Riley IV said today after a redeployment ceremony at the Pentagon. "(The attack) was one of the biggest things to happen in American history in a long time. It's awful that it happened, but it's a big honor to be a part of it and knowing that we helped out as much as we could."
Prior to the attack, Defense Protective Service guards manned the Pentagon's entry points. By the morning of Sept. 12, military police had deployed to augment the protective service. Riley's unit, the 200th MP Company, and Maryland's 290th MP Co., were the first military police on the scene. They secured the crime scene and provided security for the Pentagon for the next 20 days.
In mid-October, both Maryland National Guard companies traveled to Fort Stewart, Ga., to mobilize for the force protection mission. They returned to the Military District of Washington on Dec. 15 and have been performing their duties here ever since.
Today, military police from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 759th MP Battalion, Fort Carson, Colo.; 300th MP Co., Fort Riley, Kan.; and 144th MP Co., Michigan Army National Guard, are also taking part in the force protection mission.
Capt. Eric Ogborn, adjutant of the 759th, praised the National Guard members. "They're absolutely the finest soldiers," he said. "We don't see any difference between the National Guard and active duty. There's no rivalry as some units may think. These people are true professionals.
Capt. Jon David Black, 200th MP Co. commander, said the mission has been stressful for the National Guardsmen.
"It was a very critical mission," Black said. "I felt that this area here, in perspective, is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, than the missions in Afghanistan right now." Historically, he noted, terrorists tend to return if they don't succeed, "so we had to be on our toes the whole time. It wasn't an easy mission."
One of the commander's greatest challenges, he added, was keeping the troops focused. "We're so close to home, the soldiers tended to try to take care of their home business," he said. "I had to keep them focused on the mission here." Eventually, he added, schedules were worked out that allowed people to go home when they were off-duty.
After nearly a year at the Pentagon, the 200th and the 290th are now being replaced by the 258th MP Co. of the 519th MP Battalion from Fort Polk, La. Defense officials and Maryland's adjutant general addressed the military police at a redeployment ceremony at the Pentagon's River Parade Field.
Marshall McCants, special assistant to the director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, Defense Protective Service, thanked the outgoing units for their "courageous, professional and timely support in response to the Defense Protective Agency's urgent call for law enforcement assistance in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack."
McCants said the men and women of 200th and 290th "truly fall into the category of first responder, for they rallied and deployed from their families, homes, jobs and arrived at the Pentagon in less than 24 hours. ... Our request for assistance was answered without hesitation and by an immediate and professional deployment."
Throughout the deployment, he said, "professionalism, constancy, devotion to duty and devotion to country" marked the Maryland guardsmen's performance.
"We know that we disrupted your families' lives," he added, "and I would be remiss if I didn't thank your family members, neighbors and friends who courageously maintained your households and neighborhoods while you came here diligently to defend ours."
McCants also paid homage to Staff Sgt. Kenneth Cropper, 49, a well driller, who died March 20 while doing physical training at Fort Myer, Va. McCant told Cropper's wife, Laverne: "We have not forgotten your husband's selflessness and valiant contributions to our effort." Like the other military police, McCants said, Cropper was determined that nothing would happen to the men and women of the Pentagon on his watch.
Army Maj. Gen. Gerald Rudisill, assistant to the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, for National Guard matters, noted that the military police had contributed "a tremendous dimension of security, confidence and stability."
"That's something the National Guard has been doing for hundreds of years, and you have done it well," Rudisill said. "As we look across at the serenity surrounding the Pentagon today, you had a lot to do with that. You ought to be awful proud. Thank you for your service to our nation. You're a tremendous asset and I applaud your effort."
Army Major Gen. James Fretterd, Maryland's adjutant general, thanked the group for putting their lives on hold for almost a year. "This is total force at its finest," he said. The general noted that many of the guardsmen "were pulled out of colleges and universities, pulled off your jobs, away from your families" yet they did their jobs as professionals.
"I want to thank you all on behalf of the governor, the lieutenant governor and all the people of Maryland for what you have done for your country," Fretterd told the MPs. "We can't be any more proud than I am today. I hope on the 15th, when you have your homecoming, when all your families can join us and, hopefully, your employers, that we can pay proper tribute to you and all that you have done."
Fretterd also offered to help anyone who encounters problems with their employers. "When you get back, if you have any problems with employer conflicts," he said, "please give me a call through the chain of command so that we can help you. We're there to do that."
The general asked those who served in such previous operations as Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Vietnam to raise their hands. Seeing several dozen hands raised, he concluded. "You've held up your hand when your country needed you and that's so important. We call you Maryland's finest and there's a reason for that. Because you're the best."