Skilled at switching between roles in public order and war, military police have become leading players in the Armys war on terrorism. So essential are MPs on todays battlefield that recruits attending the Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., are almost certain to deploy from their first duty stations.
Most of them are only 18 or 19 years old, but these Soldiers know theres a war going on. Were putting them through the most stressful situations allowed so theyll be ready, said CPT Douglas Clay, company commander for a recent class of trainees.
The minimum age to enter civilian law enforcement is typically 21. Its just 18 for those committing to Uncle Sam. SFC Mark Ford, the schools operations branch chief, said age doesnt equal the degree of responsibility given to military police, who he believes bear more responsibility than their civilian counterparts.
Law and order are just part of their five-piece mission. Their jobs can change focus daily, and they have to be flexible. But being multipurpose is what most of them enjoy about their jobs, Ford said.
Military police have the choice of two occupational specialties: basic combat support MP and corrections specialist. Training for each specialty lasts nine weeks, much of it at Fort Leonard Woods Stem Village, a mock town featuring confinement facilities, residential structures, a bank and a theater.
Law-enforcement training starts with instruction on Miranda rights and military law, then proceeds to evidence collection, search and apprehension, police reports and forms, vehicle inspection, traffic directing and convoy escorts, interrogations and interviews, and response to such incidents as suicide attempts, rape, damage to private property and domestic abuse.
MPs specializing in corrections branch off to hone skills theyll need for running correctional and confinement facilities like the U.S. Army Confinement Facility-Europe at Coleman Barracks in Mannheim, Germany. Topics include the Armys correctional system, custody and confinement procedures, and prisoner administration.
Whether assigned to a police station, a confinement facility or deployed to a combat zone, MPs must know how to give verbal commands, and conduct prone-position and wall searches. The ability to use force can seem a necessity for MPs, who may need to physically restrain perpetrators.
But its technique not strength or violence that they use to control subjects.
Unarmed self-defense is all about executing the right moves and striking in the right places. Body size and strength have nothing to do with it, said drill sergeant SSG Michael Baker.
And though handcuffing may appear simple, Soldiers spend hours learning how and where to place handcuffs on both compliant and noncompliant subjects.
When we apprehend someone, were liable for their safety, Ford said.
Lessons learned in Iraq have inspired the schools leaders to keep training realistic and relevant with steady updates. Instruction on urban warfare, for example, has gone from one day to four. Rising populations and urban growth make it essential, instructors said.
At some level, were always going to have boots on the ground, and were always going to need to fight and survive in cities no matter what job specialty Soldiers have, said CPT Chris Heberer, instructor for the MP Officer Basic Course.
Half the challenge of urban warfare is being prepared for all the variables. The other half is anticipating what will be on the other side of the door getting kicked down, or whether the enemy will lurk around the next corner or hover on a rooftop. MPs providing security and reconnaissance operations in Iraq have also encouraged the addition of mobile-fire training. Beyond qualification on the 9mm pistol, recruits now head to the range to practice firing Mk. 19 grenade launchers and M-249s machine guns from atop moving vehicles.
Were shoulder to shoulder with combat-arms Soldiers,Heberer said. Commanders are realizing that we have a lot of knowledge and expertise to contribute, and that an MP platoon brings an incredible amount of firepower to the battle.
They can also be a less threatening presence than tanks and infantry. Its their subdued yet persuasive presence most Army planners value on the battlefield.