By Mr. Stephen Standifird (Leonard Wood)March 3, 2016
Soldiers prepare themselves by donning protective shin and ankle guards, elbow pads, individual body armor, attaching a face shield to their Kevlar helmet and a protective shield.
Once the order is received, they file into a physical-training bubble in riot gear to quell a simulated riot during corrections/detention specialist Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood.
These Soldiers, from Company C, 701st Military Police Battalion, start this portion of their seven-week course with a lot of classroom instruction, followed by a demonstration and walk-through. This is an important process, according to Staff Sgt. Lorenze Hughes, instructor for Co. C.
"It's really important, because these Soldiers are coming from a civilian environment where they are not used to this," she said. "We try to take it slow, so they learn the moves correctly so when they actually have to use them, they are using them correctly as well."
Once the Soldiers are performing sufficiently, the instructors add a realistic touch to the training. They barricade the door, add obstacles and provide physical resistance -- all for the benefit of the Soldiers, Hughes said.
"It makes them see how realistic and how serious this situation really can be," she said. "If we take it slow, it can be taken as a joke. A lot of them have never gone through something like this in their lives; you can see it in their face when they hold the shield."
The riot-control portion of their training is done in conjunction with another physically demanding and confrontational aspect of the corrections and detention specialist training; forced-cell move.
Staff Sgt. Vincent Daly, platoon sergeant, Co. C, 701st MP Bn., said a force-cell move is exactly what it sounds like. Five Soldiers in protective gear, including fully enclosed helmets and protective masks, chest protectors, knee and shin guards and elbow pads, storm a cell and force an inmate to the floor, so restraints can be applied. Once the restraints are on, the Solders can physically move the inmate to wherever they need.
"It's pretty close to anything they will experience in a real life situation," he said. Sometimes the inmates are uncooperative to the point of being combative, as Pvt. Heather Baker and her team experienced when it was their turn.
"I figured they would be more compliant, but they were not compliant whatsoever," she said. "I got flung around quite a bit."
Sgt. 1st Class Mario Galloway, senior instructor, Co. C, 701st MP Bn., said it was all part of the training, because these Soldiers will need to be prepared for anything.
"A lot of what we teach the Soldiers (at this point in training) is worst-case scenario," he said.
Pvt. Theadora Giberson said she understands why the training is so physical.
"They (the instructors) are not going soft on us for a reason," she said. "They are actually trying to prepare us, so we get the experience here before going to our prison to work."
Before reaching this point of training, the Soldiers have had classes on interpersonal communications and unarmed self-defense. Galloway said these classes are the foundation of what these Soldiers will need.
"The interpersonal communications class is the best class," he said. "Interpersonal communication skills are vital, because if you know how to talk to an inmate, you can possibly go your whole career without being in a physical altercation."
In the case they are faced with a physical altercation, the unarmed self-defense classes teach about control, pressure points and how to maintain distance, Galloway said.
The next steps for these students are testing and the final situational training exercise where the students will have to run a detention facility using all of the skills they learned in the course, Daly said.
"After seven weeks, they are pretty much at the pinnacle of their training," Daly said.
Following graduation, these Soldiers are likely to be stationed at one of six Army or joint-service facilities, Daly said. Those facilities are the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Joint Regional Corrections Facilities at Fort Leavenworth and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; and Regional Confinement Facilities in Germany and South Korea.