FORT BLISS, Texas - Stone-faced military police from two nations, fitted in full riot gear, endeavor to maintain control as disgruntled and resistant detainees provoked mayhem from within their prison.
This was just one scenario of several demonstrations that culminated training since May 16 as part of Guardian Justice, a training initiative focused on developing and sustaining multi-component, multi-service and multinational MP Soldiers' technical skills at every level.
Military police from Canada and the U.S. had already been training together at McGregor Range Complex, N.M., for weeks when key representatives from the United States Army Reserve, the United States Police School, 11th MP Brigade and the Fort Bliss Provost Marshal attended the demonstrations June 26.
The first exercise for the day was a cell extraction, consisting of five guards in riot gear subduing, restraining and removing a resistant detainee from his chamber. Next was an exhibition known as a 'gladiator' scenario, a situation involving a fight among detainees in which a team has to go in and control the situation. Then a riot team demonstrated how to maneuver through various formations in order to gain control over a shifting crowd. Later, the VIP's were taken to a range where they were given the opportunity to fire one of the less-than-lethal weapons available to MP's: an air-powered launcher that utilizes oleoresin capsicum balls, commonly referred to as pepper spray.
"The most important focus when conducting detainee operations would be control, custody and welfare while ensuring compliance through mutual respect and interpersonal communication skills," said Spc. Dendray Ballard, an observer, controller and trainer with the 805th MP, United States Army Reserve in Carrie, N.C. "A main challenge is maintaining bearing and composure because a detainee might interpret certain conversational tones or body language as disrespectful."
"It's imperative to understand the concept of how important it is for an MP to utilize the appropriate amount of force, not to get overly emotional, and not to hurt someone intentionally or unintentionally," added Ballard. "They have to basically be on their 'P's and Q's' at all times."
"It's very important that the leadership comes down and gets an assessment of what's going on with training, because they are the ones who plan this training," said Lt. Col. Mark Vinci, the officer in charge of Guardian Justice and 11th's operations officer in Los Alamitos, Calif. "It's always good to put eyes on ground and talk to the Soldiers and get a one on one with them."
Guardian Justice, scheduled to end Aug. 10, but is sure to leave MP's with a better understanding of how to handle various detainee situations.
"I like to teach that this is a tool, not the tool," said Ballard. "If it's something that can be utilized one day somewhere, hopefully to help save some one or to keep a situation from getting out of hand, I hope they take away the idea of thinking on their feet and being very versatile. Ultimately, I want them to realize that there is always more than one way to do something and that it helps to have a bag of tools at their disposal."