MPs train to preserve crime scenes
July 10, 2011
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., July 11, 2011 -- A splatter of blood, a piece of hair, or a fingerprint can give forensic experts enough information to put a criminal away for good.
With that in mind, the Military Police platoon assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, received the latest crime scene training during a forensic material collection and exploitation course from June 20 to July 1, 2011, at an urban training area here.
“As MPs, we really pride ourselves on evidence gathering,” said Sgt. Martin Contreras, a team leader assigned to the MP platoon. “By doing our job, we can find the evidence needed to arrest criminals and terrorists.”
Providing this training for his Soldiers was a high priority for 2nd Lt. Tate Langley, the MP platoon leader.
“Our main function and focus [in this training] is to simulate a realistic environment where my [Soldiers] can learn to gather crucial evidence,” he said. “We are building their confidence to get the evidence that could help prosecute and convict criminals.”
He added that forensics help link weapons and items used in a crime to the perpetrator, strengthening the prosecution.
In the initial phase of the course, the Soldiers learned evidence-gathering fundamentals in a classroom environment.
“It is important to get these basic skills down in the classroom,” said Spc. Michael Miulli, an MP assigned to the unit. “In there, we can take our time and ask questions.”
That readied the Soldiers for the next phase of the course, in which they applied those lessons to more dynamic, real-world situations.
The students moved to a simulated urban environment, complete with Arabic music playing from rooftops. Their training mission called for them to find a missing Soldier, using clues gathered during the course.
Not only did each scenario require them to apply individual collection techniques, but also to work as team in order to accomplish the mission.
“It is important that we learn everyone’s job out there,” said Contreras. “We have to be able to step in and perform every aspect of evidence gathering.”
He added that the hardest part of the course wasn’t cross-training on different jobs but performing them all within a limited time.
“It was a rush trying to secure the area, take pictures, gather the evidence, and clear out of there within the time they gave us,” said Contreras. “I was sweating bad, trying to beat the time.”
The training was intense, but it was also grounded in the real-world experience of the instructors.
Frederick King, a senior law enforcement analyst for the U.S. Army Military Police School at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., has trained hundreds of servicemembers, sharing with them lessons from his more than 20 years of investigative experience.
“This training is very in-depth,” he explained. “We specialize in these scenario-based training lanes that Soldiers are utilizing right now in Iraq and in Afghanistan.”
He added that the techniques taught here have been tested in combat zones and have proven their worth.
“The quicker they can identify the situation, secure the area and process the evidence in a battlefield environment, the faster the legal system can work on getting the enemy convicted,” King said. “Our evidence gathering helps in the judicial process.”
In addition, the instructors did not hold back on the sometimes shocking realism of a combat zone.
“It was a like a crazy scene in a horror movie,” said Miulli, recalling one particularly bloody training lane. “We cleared the first floor of the building and then went downstairs to find a room with blood, body parts, and cutting tools.”
He explained there could be times his Soldiers find themselves in such situations.
After performing each lane, instructors conducted after-action reviews to identify ways to improve.
“These Soldiers came to this training ready to go,” said King. “I was happy with how they did.”
Langley noted the exercise's focus on key individual and group tasks and how these forensic skills contribute to the platoon's collective readiness.
“My guys will have a firm understanding of the situations they can encounter and how to process them,” said Langley. “They are learning the basics of battlefield forensics, which is very important as we are training for full-spectrum operations.”