JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The 508th Military Police Battalion faced a daunting scenario during a multi-agency training event Sept. 9.

An exercise involving more than 500 Soldiers and civilians from 508th MP Bn., 4th Squadron 6th Air Cavalry Regiment, the Directorate of Emergency Services, 42nd MP Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Garrison and I Corps headquarters tested responses to a mock prisoner escape from the Northwestern Joint Regional Correctional Facility.

Under the scenario, a prisoner makes his way outside of the facility and enteres the surrounding tree line on foot.

The importance of this kind of training lies in developing good working relationships with other units and agencies, according to 2nd Lt. Nate Sanders.

"It's really about being able to work as one unit," Sanders said.

Maintaining the security of the base, while systematically locking down and locating an escapee takes teamwork, he said.

Captain Matthew Shifrin, with DES, said the training is very important to agencies not directly involved with the RCF.

"It's a really good opportunity to exercise DES response to an event such as this," Shifrin said.

Set up in the tactical operations center with mobile incident-response vehicles, DES is prepared to help contain and locate an escaped prisoner, he said.

"Fortunately, it doesn't happen often, so we don't get to train like this," Shifrin said.

Although the likelihood of a prisoner escape is low, this kind of coordinated training serves a very practical purpose for other security-related scenarios, he said.

One real-world event remains a fresh reminder of the importance of working cohesively with multiple agencies.

A five-hour manhunt ensued after a civilian smashed through the perimeter fence near Hillside housing area in a stolen minivan March 8. The suspected carjacker entered the base and fled into the tree line on foot, where he was later captured by an Army military policeman and an Air Force security forces Airman. During that search, DES coordinated with many of the same organizations taking part in the current training, Shifrin said.

Getting out into the woods helps reinforce classroom training, according to Pfc. Bernie Webb, who was assigned to one of dozens of search teams.

"We actually get to go out and see and feel how it is to have an escaped prisoner," Webb said.

Land navigation and surveillance take center roles for search teams, he said.

"We get to see what we need to do as a team," Webb said. "If anything ever happens, we'll be ready."

The 508th MP Bn. S-3, Maj. Stanley Ward, said the real crucible of the exercise was not Soldiers executing the search.

"I think our biggest challenge is the number of agencies involved," Ward said. "We're really trying to build our communications network."

Everything has to work like clockwork, he said.

"Our standard operating procedures can't just be held at our level," Ward said. "In order for it to work, it has to be coordinated at an installation level."

After an exhaustive search, the mock prisoner was eventually located and returned to the RCF unharmed.

Rick Wood is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16