National Guard Military Police aid, learn from counterparts in Germany
September 2, 2011
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany, Sept. 2, 2011 -- Two military policemen patrol the residential areas around Grafenwoehr, looking for doors left ajar and citizens in trouble. For Pvt. Benjamin Russell, this routine is old hat, muscle memory claimed from a year's experience. But for his partner, Pfc. Patrick Kelly, this is just his second day looking for real trouble.
Kelly, a National Guardsman from the 72nd Military Police Company in Henderson, Nevada, is in Germany for three weeks to ride shotgun with the active-duty Soldiers of Russell's Grafenwoehr-based 615th Military Police Company as part of the Overseas Deployment Training program.
The program, which gives Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers an opportunity to train, participate in exercises, and provide support to Soldiers stationed overseas, allows the troops in the 72nd MP Co. a chance to hone their law enforcement skills in real-life, hands-on situations, said Sgt. 1st Class Dave Hurwitz, 72nd MP Co. platoon sergeant.
"It's a good opportunity for Soldiers to get experience on an active duty post, to see how broad the horizons of the U.S. Army really are, and to get a little exposure to the world outside the United States," said Hurwitz. "We can train at home, but I can't have a Soldier be hands on. They can't ride with the local police. They can practice it, but here, it's actually real-world."
While practicing their skills, the ODT Soldiers help Grafenwoehr's MP's do their jobs and improve their own skills, said Master Sgt. Barry Bielhart, Provost sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison, Grafenwoehr.
Under Bielhart's watch, one active Army MP and one ODT Soldier helm each car during routine patrols, an arrangement that effectively doubles the company's manpower.
"It's good for nights, weekends and big events," said Bielhart. "It's never good for an MP to individually try to break up a fight. So we have these ODT missions that provide more security to our guys. It gives them a partner to work with, instead of being out by themselves."
Bielhart said the arrangement also trusts the active Army MP to become teachers, able to communicate their trade to others. "It helps that guy learn a little about the mentorship process by having that guy there," he said. "They're able to feel a sense of worth."
Kelly has been in the military for more than a year. He said didn't get a chance to use a radar gun or work on a case until he got to Germany.
"It was the first time I've interacted with actual calls from people with problems," said Kelly. "It was fun because I actually got to get into my job."
Bielhart said he expects his ODT Soldiers to do as much law enforcement as possible, to write traffic tickets, work cases and learn the ropes under the supervision of their partners.
"It's a waste of time for them to come here if they don't," he said. "I want them involved as much as they possibly can. I want them to do the cases so they're exposed to it."
This exposure to good training is what led the 72nd MP Co. to become repeat customers after participating in ODT training in Germany and Italy last year, and Hurwitz said he can think of at least two Soldiers so excited to train overseas that they extended.
"They knew that if they did they'd have an opportunity to come over here," Hurwitz said.
Despite its benefits, funding for the ODT program may be running out, and Bielhart said that while he realizes as a professional why the program may be cut, he personally hopes the partnership will continue.
"I think that the ODT program is an excellent program," said Bielhart, who estimates he has worked with seven to eight MP rotations a year over the past three years. "They've really helped out on a lot of different functions, things where if we didn't have them here, we'd really be hurting. It's one of those things that make it a whole lot easier when we have them."
Bieldhart added that the benefit extends to the ODT Soldiers, who hone their law enforcement skills so they can bring them to whatever place they may need them.
Places like Grafenwoehr, where the radio crackles to life to report a blown alarm in a nearby supply warehouse, and Russell and Kelly answer the call, turn the wheel, and get ready to do their job.