By Staff Sgt. Cooper CashJuly 28, 2014
FORT HUNTER LIGGETT, Calif. -- Amber rays of the setting sun showered the Soldiers in light, while the humming of armored vehicles masked their voices. The warriors of the 324th Military Police Battalion gathered around their battalion commander for a rousing speech of dedication and resolve - the time had come to put their training to the test July 25.
The Fresno based unit was tasked with controlling and searching a village for a high value target (HVT) during Warrior Exercise (WAREX) 91 14-03.
With their vehicles lining the dusty roadway, each vehicle commander visually checked their truck's inhabitants for all necessary gear for the mission.
Although this was an exercise, the Soldiers seemed as focused as they would be in an actual battle.
"This training pushes Soldiers to their limits," said San Francisco native, Lt. Col. Christine C. Borgognoni, the commander of the 324th. "The sweat equity of training in this environment helps Soldiers learn."
The commander's words to her troops echoed the realistic vibe of the exercise.
"Today we have the opportunity to change the tide of public opinion," said Borgognoni. "The enemy plays its own game too- all of you need to keep your eyes open and ready to meet the challenge... there is no single hero in this, we are in this together!"
As with real combat operations, the mission was laid out in an operations order prior to preparation.
"We are looking for HVTs said searching for terrorist activities," said Sgt. Daniel R. Wuest, assigned to the 377th MP Company, 391st MP Batt., and attached to the 324th MP Batt. "Including cell phones, and bomb making materials."
As the Soldiers' vehicles approached the village, darkness fell. The gun trucks were positioned around the targeted area, and turrets were directed in overlapping sectors of fire.
Swiftly and methodically, the MPs ran in four-to-five man fire teams to their assigned portions of the village.
Lined against each building in a porcupine like formation- Soldiers' rifles jutted in every direction. After securing the exterior of each building, they poured through each door, systematically controlling each room.
Although the teams had drilled for four days leading up to the operation, there were still obstacles to overcome.
"Overcoming communications issues was tough," said Wuest "It helps us prepare to overcome issues when deploying by making us think outside the box."
When entering a few buildings, the Soldiers encountered opposition role players, who successfully engage some of the assaulting Soldiers.
Medical training, as well as detainee operations are part of this exercise as well.
When a Soldier is injured, even when simulated, the focus immediately turns to treating and moving the casualty to a safe location.
"We actually CASEVAC'd (casualty evacuation) the casualty to Milpitas (a neighboring forward operations base) and will have to pick up the casualty the next day," said Wuest.
Once a hostile actor is captured, the MPs moved them in the same manner as they would in combat.
"We went through the steps of searching, detaining and moving the HVT to the extraction point," said Harrison, Ohio, native Wuest.
The WAREX's mission is to simulate a wartime environment to prepare Soldiers for any upcoming deployments.
"This was similar to my 05-06 deployment to Iraq," said Staff Sgt. Aaron M. Golden, a squad leader of the 414th MP Co., from Joplin, Missouri. "The convoy ops (operations) and presence patrols - its nice to refresh skills."
U.S. Forces are dedicated to the protection of the civilian population, and the WAREX training reinforces this stance.
"Soldiers accomplished the mission, while showing restraint when necessary," said Borgognoni. "The highlight for me, is the integration of different (MP) companies to have the fire power to accomplish the mission... And that is what the MP Corps is all about."