In a career field that relies on leadership skills, critical thinking and instinct, the new senior enlisted adviser to the U.S. Army's Office of the Provost Marshal General credits her success to the Army Values and NCO Creed.
Sgt. Maj. Dawn Rippelmeyer said it was these touchstones that guided her through 26 years of service in the military police corps. "You must memorize them and live them," she said, "They will be a part of every decision you make, and if you live your life by them, they are not going to steer you wrong."
Rippelmeyer assumed her new role on June 10, bringing a vast degree of experience and knowledge to Maj. Gen. David Quantock, who, as the Provost Marshal General, is the principal Army Staff officer for the development and execution of the Army Policing Functions and the principal military advisor to the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff of the Army on policing matters. Rippelmeyer replaces Command Sgt. Maj. Jay Fowler who has held the post since June 4, 2010.
Roles and responsibilities:
The scope and importance of the responsibility military police are entrusted with present almost constant challenges. Rippelmeyer said early mentorship is critical in developing a warfighter capable of making the right decisions when needed. Tasked with law enforcement, criminal investigations, criminal intelligence fusion, corrections, physical security, high-risk personnel security, antiterrorism and detention operations as well as forensics and biometrics, Rippelmeyer said military police officers are trained to be leaders from the day they step foot into the learning environment. "I think our team leaders and our Soldiers in law enforcement are used to making decisions on patrols," she said. "Whoever is senior in that team of two or three Soldiers, be it a specialist or private first class, must make a decision right there on the spot."
From traffic stops, domestic incidents or in a tactical role, she said military police are expected to make critical decisions in stressful situations. "We train them to have the confidence and ability to make those decisions at a junior level, and translates to extremely good non-commissioned officers up and through the ranks," she said.
As the former command sergeant major of the 42nd Military Police Brigade at Fort Lewis, Wash., Rippelmeyer spent the last three years providing enlisted mentorship and oversight for theater-level military police operations in support of combatant commanders worldwide.
According to Rippelmeyer, difficult decisions, both in and out of uniform, are a constant in a Soldier's life. Some of those difficult decisions facing young troops relate to managing career choices. She advises Soldiers to tackle those tough assignments, but also remember that doesn't mean it's exclusive to deploying downrange.
Rippelmeyer cited law enforcement as one example of a difficult but important mission where military police corps Soldiers must learn to excel. "We have to be the experts," she said. "The Army relies on us to be the premiere policing, investigation, and correction's force."
Rippelmeyer said Soldiers shouldn't limit their prospects. "Go be a desk sergeant, serve as a military police investigations investigator," she said. "Do those things that give you a broad range of experience. "If you can get a chance to partner yourself with any type of law enforcement agency within our civilian counterparts, you are just going to increase your knowledge to serve as an expert that the Army is relying on us to be."
Females in combat-like roles:
As a female in the military police corps, Rippelmeyer does not consider it an anomaly for females to be on the front lines with their male counterparts - noting that men and women have spent the past decade in harm's way, shoulder-to-shoulder fighting the enemy. "In all aspects of the regiment, we have done a phenomenal job," she said of the integration of both the male and female Soldiers into leadership roles. "Across the board we have amazing Soldiers, and the work they do is amazing. I am impressed every day I put my uniform on. Whether they are a gunner or a team leader, they have been in Iraq and Afghanistan doing things other countries assume only males could accomplish."
She said it doesn't matter if the team leader is a male or female as long as each is able to provide the inspirational leadership that every Soldier needs.
Pride in service:
As military police continue to support combatant commanders in Afghanistan, young Soldiers have developed what some describe as tactical patience and Rippelmeyer said law enforcement training has been a key pillar to the success on the battlefield and performing military police operations back in the States.
She said military police must be in the mindset they are interacting with the public and the people they serve. "You must look at the situation and realize what is going on and take your time to look at the real situation and have the ability to maintain your own defenses and situational awareness," she said. As military police, Rippelmeyer said Soldiers don't immediately go into a situation "guns up." "We are trained to take a pause and truly understand what is going on to make the best decision. Our Soldiers do an amazing job at that. This builds strength within the military police corps."
With years of mentoring young Soldiers, she said the military police corps formations are some of the most intelligent, committed, dedicated young Soldiers in the Army. "We also have leaders who are cut from that same cloth," she said. "They are involved in training and preparing them for success. It's not just about that Soldier, but the non-commissioned officer taking pride in what is his/her Soldier is about to do."
Leveraging Civilian-Enhanced Capabilities:
One of the strengths of the military police corps are the reserve-component formations across the force. Covering nearly every state, Reserve and National Guard military police comprise the majority of the MP force. "So we, in the active component, could not do our job without their support," she said. "They bring just a wealth of knowledge because many of them are law enforcement and corrections professionals in their civilian capacity."
Rippelmeyer said the Reserve and Guard military police Soldiers she has worked with have done a tremendous job and even brought hidden talents to commanders that one would not expect.
"The reserve component brings skills that are not normally associated with an active component unit, and that makes our regiment so much better," she said.
As military police units continue to provide vital support to battlefield and installation commanders, Rippelmeyer said it's a great time to be an MP. "Continue to work hard and be innovative thinkers," she said. "Yes, we are going to have to do things with less money, but this often drives the most innovative solutions.
"We are here in an exciting time, and we are going to have to work hard, but in the end the military police corps will take on the challenge and succeed."