JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- They're sometimes called "low-density" or "specialized" Military Occupational Specialties (MOS), but at 504th Military Police Battalion, they prefer the term "enablers."
"They enable us to do our mission," said 2nd Lt. Andrew Holm, operations officer, 504th MP Bn. "This is us showing them they're part of the team and we appreciate all the work they have to do."
The "Dragon Fighters" of 504th MP Bn have a wide and varied mission set that ranges from area security and law enforcement on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, to rapid worldwide deployment and training center rotations. These missions are focused on military law enforcement and security, but also rely on Soldiers who often do their work behind the scenes.
The Enabler Appreciation Day at 504th MP Bn honored these Soldiers, bringing food, games and recognition into the battalion maintenance bay.
"We're really quick to recognize someone on the road who does something really cool, but not very quick to recognize someone who puts in over 40 hours to make sure that truck works," said Maj. James Bloom, executive officer, 504th MP Bn, at the beginning of the ceremony. "This battalion is one of the most ready units on JBLM and it is 100 percent on you, you own that."
With chairs and tables filling the maintenance bay instead of military vehicles, it was a festive and celebratory atmosphere, with the USO Northwest chapter providing hot dogs and snacks. After an Enablers Appreciation Day cake was cut, a dozen Soldiers were presented with the driver and mechanic badge in recognition of excellent performance.
One of the USO volunteers, Denise Scarboro, served in the 504th MP Bn in the late 1970s as a member of the Women's Army Corps, when the battalion was stationed at The Presidio in San Francisco.
"I was a gate guard under the Golden Gate Bridge," said Scarboro, who later worked with Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and retired as a Chief Warrant Officer 5. Command Sgt. Maj. Antonio Cox, 504th MP Bn, presented Scarboro with a battalion coin in recognition of her service.
The nature of MP battalions puts "enabler" Soldiers in the same company as their MP counterparts, rather than serving in their own specialized unit. This means a company's mechanics and medics often get assigned to missions outside their MOS.
"They feel like they have a job here and a mission," said 2nd Lt. Abby Badden, executive officer, 504th MP Bn Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment. "They really get to see how their work impacts the company, it shows how valuable their work is to us."
Another unique aspect of maintainers in an MP unit is the focus on Armored Security Vehicles (ASV), which are not often fielded to other Army units.
Sergeant John Alcock, of 571st MP Company, was not familiar with the ASV when he first arrived at 504th MP Bn, and knows the challenge of learning to maintain a new vehicle.
"I'm proud of my Soldiers for stepping up and learning to fix the ASV," said Alcock, who also said the heavy use of military vehicles by 504th helps maintainers because they're able to analyze them better.
For a veteran maintainer like Sgt. 1st Class Travis Bates, his first assignment with an MP unit has shown him the unique way that enablers are integrated into the mission.
"The MPs really show appreciation for what others do, they realize that the mission cannot happen without everybody, and I'm proud to be a Dragon Fighter," said Bates. "These young Soldiers, they really appreciate the support."