The medias spotlight on the abuse of enemy prisoners of war at the U.S.- controlled Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last spring shocked most MPs, said SSG John Fair, who teaches EPW handling to recruits. But trainees are as confident as ever, he said.
Were here to learn everything we can about doing our jobs as professionally as possible, said PV2 Richard Carpenter of himself and classmates. We havent let the bad press or the actions of a few bad Soldiers affect us.
While the initial encounter between MPs and EPWs can be hostile, trainees are taught to let up on force once prisoners are seized and under control. They learn to treat prisoners respectfully the same way MPs are expected to treat military members apprehended in garrison environments.
MPs are also responsible for feeding and clothing EPWs. And in the case of an attack, they must also defend prisoners. The Armys focus on the treatment of EPWs has not changed since last springs controversy, Fair said.
The doctrine has not changed. The mission has not changed, and training has not changed.
Maturity and War
Its not often that you get a young adult of 18 with the authority that a military police Soldier has, said COL George Millan, director of training at the MP school. It takes someone with maturity and common sense in dealing with people.
MPs took a high-profile role in the war soon after the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The New York National Guards 442nd MP Company, for example, contributed to rescue-and-recovery efforts at the World Trade Center following the attack. The unit also provided security in New York Citys mass transit systems. And last April, the 442nds Soldiers returned from a year of duty in Iraq, where they trained Iraqi police.
Law enforcement is something most of us do every day because we have a large number of civilian police officers in the unit, said company commander CPT Sean ODonnell. Most Iraqis had heard about the NYPD, so they wanted to learn as much from us as they could. Our experience enabled us to provide some of the most current training available.
The demand for MPs on the battlefield and in garrison has been taxing for active-duty and reservecomponent Soldiers. Thousands of Guard and Reserve members in artillery units have been reclassified as MPs and stationed at bases throughout the United States and Germany, while active-duty MPs remain in Iraq. The Army has also enacted the Stop-Loss Program to keep active- and reserve-component MPs from dropping off the rolls.
Future plans for the MP Corps include the creation of entire companies that specialize in detainee operations.
This need goes back to Afghanistan, where we found that we just didnt have enough Soldiers with that type of skill set, Millan said.
And as missions change, so will training. New batches of instructors will arrive from deployments around the globe, and their experiences will shape course development.
New instructors will come to us with the knowledge of what the textbooks tell us to do, as well as what Soldiers are actually doing in war, where theyre updating tactics on the move, Heberer said. Well continue to incorporate those lessons learned to save lives.
An MPs job can be stressful with so much responsibility entrusted to him, ODonnell said. MPs must make decisions on an independent basis, and not rely on being steered by leaders.
Its not just a sense of authority that attracts men and women to the MP Corps, ODonnell said. Were all common in the sense that we want to help and serve others. Were selfless by choice.