JOINT BASE McGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- Dusk settled on the base as the detainees shuffled back to the holding cell; suddenly angry yells erupted, bodies collided and the evening stillness was broken by a screaming mob.

The real-life scenario gave military police, paralegals and judge advocates a venue to work together to fine-tune their detainee operation procedures to ensure the military police actions were in compliance with the Geneva Convention.

Integrating the legal teams with the military police during realistic scenario-based exercises was developed by Col. Robert DiBella when he became the commander of the Army Reserve's 4th Legal Operations Detachment based at Fort Totten, N.Y.

DiBella, now the staff judge advocate for the 200th Military Police Command, based at Fort Meade, Md., said his idea to embed legal Soldiers within the war fighters began in 2005 when he and his staff briefed a postal unit at Fort Pickett, Va., about the rules of engagement to its deployment to Afghanistan.

"After the brief, we went outside and practiced together, in a real world scenario; this was the first time we used this methodology," he said.

As the commander of the 4th LOD, DiBella said he took training the power point slides in the classroom to training rule of law operations outside in a field environment.

"Soldiers of the 4th LOD took legal principals, like ROE, and immediately employed them to a tactical environment; I called this, 'Phase One'", he said, which the unit conducted at Fort Drum in 2011.

In 2012, the innovative training had morphed into the second phase when DiBella invited the 744th Military Police Battalion, based in Bethlehem, Pa., to participate in a field training exercise at Joint Base Dix-McGuire-Lakehurst, N.J.

Legal teams were exposed to a wide spectrum of detention operations training to include point of capture exchange, detention-center operations, lawful and unlawful interrogations, detainee fraternization, tactical questioning, non-lethal force against detainees and health and welfare security inspection.

A culminating exercise exposed legal teams to an entire gambit convincing training exercises that included experienced military policemen as detainee role players in a riot situation. Through their training, LOD Soldiers assumed the role as military guards and applied learned tactics and techniques to quell the simulated riot and identified legal issues and misconduct.

A misconduct issue from one of the scenarios resulted in a mock court martial the next day, with military policemen as panel members and key witnesses, while LOD Soldiers performed litigation roles.

One military policeman said the training exercise was extremely effective in providing real-world training

DiBella said the methodology of integrated training allowed each group of Soldiers to experience each other's world, to enforce good order and discipline in difficult situations downrange and serves as a model for the role of judge advocates and paralegals in various exercises throughout the Army Reserve.

"This training was an opportunity to balance the scales equally where lawyers and operators, working side by side, come together to complete the mission with good order and discipline," he said.

He credited the realistic training to his operations officer, Maj. Joseph Fitzgerald, who drafted the scenarios based on his experience from two deployments with the 101st Airborne Division.

"Fitzgerald's materials were requested by the U.S Army Legal Command, as they want to establish a training relationship and are willing to provide assets to write scenarios, observe and offer additional assistance," said DiBella.

He said units at all levels must incorporate judge advocate training in the planning phase of operations to ensure Soldiers are better equipped when deployed downrange.

"We are currently working with the G-3 this year with the goal to incorporate the training at Guardian Justice in Training Year 2014," said the Colonel.

"I'll be excited when I see operations planners working with the JAG as second nature, that's phase three," said DiBella.

Page last updated Mon May 13th, 2013 at 00:00