Arizona Guard MPs use partnerships to enhance training

Arizona Guard MPs use partnerships to enhance training

U.S. Army Soldiers from the 855th Military Police Company and Fort Huachuca’s 18th MP Detachment load on to an armored tactical vehicle during an integrated training exercise July 22, 2015, at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. The scenario involved a felony warrant arrest and was part of a 72-hour field training exercise during the MP’s annual training. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Brian A. Barbour)

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. - The rumbling tires of a black armored truck come to an abrupt halt on a dirt road as U.S. Army Soldiers dressed in combat gear dismount the vehicle and tactically enter a small rectangular building to perform a felony warrant arrest.

Soldiers command two men inside to lay on the ground where they are restrained, searched and then escorted to the armored vehicle and loaded in before it takes off down the road.

This was one of many training scenarios Soldiers with the Arizona Army National Guard’s 850th Military Police Battalion encountered during a 72-hour field training exercise at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

The exercises took place during the 850th MP’s annual training and included integrated training with Fort Huachuca’s 18th Military Police Detachment, U.S. Border Patrol and the Arizona Army National Guard’s 2-285th Assault Helicopter Battalion.

“The goal for us was to come down to Fort Huachuca and conduct Military Police mission essential task collective training,” said Lt. Col. Lonnie Branum, commander of the 850th MP Battalion and Phoenix native.

The 860th and 855th MP Companies, which fall under the 850th MP Battalion, conducted different types of training during their 15 days at Fort Huachuca. The 860th MPs trained on area security while the 855th MPs trained on police operations.

The 860th MPs focused mainly on two missions during its annual training said, Capt. Glen Allen Ray, commander of the 860th MP Company and Dallas native. One of those missions was an opportunity for the company to work with U.S. Border Patrol. The 860th set up two observations posts and conducted 10 nights of surveillance missions, said Ray.

During the integrated training with U.S. Border Patrol, the 860th was able to meet one of their training goals by conducting surveillance missions utilizing their Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS). The CROWS, which are mounted on up-armored M1151 Humvees, have long range optical and thermal vision capabilities.

“We were their eyes and ears out there,” said Ray. “We didn’t see a lot but hopefully we freed Border Patrol up to go to areas where more things were going on.”

The 860th MPs also worked with UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crews from the 2-285th AHB conducting combined operations.

Training missions included extracting displaced civilians out of an area, inserting troops during night operations and securing a downed helicopter.

“Imagine situations like Hurricane Katrina or the flooding in Connecticut a few years ago,” said 1st Lt. Aaron Thacker, “when peoples’ lives are disrupted by catastrophic events, order goes out the window. People become separated from loved ones as chaos takes hold. It’s our duty to try and restore that order.”

Thacker, a native of Tempe, Arizona, is an operations officer with the 850th MP Battalion. He explains how this type of training helps organizations that don’t normally work together prepare for real-life scenarios that might require them to integrate in order to accomplish a mission.

“It doesn’t matter if we are talking about locating and capturing a high-value target in a combat zone, or a squad being inserted into a remote location to secure a critical site, like a dam or a nuclear plant here in the United States,” he said, “Working with aviation is very relevant to the MP mission.”

While the 860th worked on their training, the 855th MPs trained on police operations with the Army’s 18th MP Detachment at Fort Huachuca.

“Police operations tasks are not something the 850th MP battalion is able to train on typically so this provided a unique opportunity for us,” said Branum.

The MP battalion is made of MP combat support companies rather than law enforcement units people are accustomed to seeing on TV and in movies. The MP’s mission is to provide support to combat units on the battlefield and take care of opposition forces and displaced civilians who can interfere with the traditional war fighter’s mission of reaching an objective.

“Normally we train on conducting operational area security, mobility and maneuver support,” said Branum.

Although it’s not typical for combat support MPs, the 855th MPs trained on law and order operations during the 15-day training exercise. This training provided an opportunity to further develop MP's garrison skills and build relationships with external organizations, such as Fort Huachuca’s 18th MP detachment.

“My intent was for each platoon to conduct a 24-hour exercise and operate in a city type scenario,” said Capt. Paul Lee, commander of the 855th MP Company and native of Peoria, Arizona.

These scenarios took place in a mock village created out of empty conex containers at Fort Huachuca. The area resembles a small town complete with buildings and roads to create a realistic urban environment.

During the 24-hour training exercise, squads ran 8-10 hour shifts, said Lee. Soldiers experienced various situations designed around different law enforcement and garrison duties

Squads were evaluated on how they handled scenarios such as impaired driver traffic stops, domestic disputes, riots and an active shooter.

“The training was very helpful,” said Spc. Daniel J. Perez, a military policeman with 855th MP Company and Phoenix native.

“The scenarios presented were ones we might not have thought about,” said Perez. “When we’re faced with a situation in training, we’re more apt to handle it better in a real-world situation.”

The 860th’s leadership is providing learning opportunities to help its Soldiers understand different situations can occur and how to deal with them, said Perez.

“Although we don’t focus on police operations training much as a battalion, it is still relevant in the event that we are called up to support natural disasters or when we partner with developing countries to train their forces,” said Thacker. “So much of what we do as a profession relies on interpersonal skills and that takes practice, so training with the 18th Detachment was a great opportunity.”