SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- They were training for a riot. Hundreds of California Army National Guard military police, with dozens of tactical vehicles, were mobilizing for a mock civil disturbance during Vigilant Guard 17, a large-scale disaster response exercise from Nov. 14-18 in California and Nevada.
Most of the Guard troops at a FEMA training site in Sherman Oaks were draped in their standard military-issued weapons, protective shields and non-lethal crowd-control equipment.
But instead of facing an angry mob, the military police experienced the exact opposite.
Members of the 270th and 649th Military Police Companies dropped defenses and opened their arms to hundreds of young students from the Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center -- an institution just across the street from the units' temporary training area -- in what was a surprise for everyone. The Citizen-Soldiers momentarily put mission aside to welcome roughly 300 youngsters into their ranks.
The Soldiers, most of them based in northern California, convoyed to this Los Angeles County area training site prepared to assist in the mega-disaster exercise involving dozens of local, state and federal agencies. The Soldiers' role was to aid law enforcement in simulated scenarios, such as crime prevention and civil disturbances. Not long after they arrived, a different request came, one involving a call to meet with young children.
First Lt. Michael J. Molina, 270th company commander, got his unit ready. They lined up vehicles for the kids and instructors to see, showcased several weapons, and assured that everything was safe for all.
Added Molina, "Their curiosity was very high. They don't see this much movement coming through with this many troops."
About 700 students from grades one to eight attend the Emek academy, according to its website.
One surprise for the National Guard Soldiers was the students' interest in women who serve as military police.
Frizzie said one of the cooler things was some of the girls and female instructors from the academy asked if they could be in the Army. "Well, guess what? I actually have some female Soldiers here who have been successful, who have deployed," Frizzie said. "A lot of (the students) came up and for a half hour got to sit down with some of our female Soldiers who said, 'Yes, you can join the military too. It's not just for boys.'"
Molina said the girls were fascinated. "They saw a lot of females within our ranks. They had a lot of great questions. Morale was at our highest. We had a blast with the kids."
The interaction lasted a few hours. Parents and teachers eventually gathered the students and marched them across the street, to the dismay of quite a few.
"How did that impact us?" Frizzie asked. "It was very positive."