RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Once restricted to men, law enforcement has opened its doors to female Soldiers in Saudi Arabia.
To exercise this relatively new liberty, female military policewomen undergo hands-on training with U.S. troops Nov. 3-7 at the King Fahad National Guard Hospital in Riyadh.
Four female MPs with the U.S. Army Reserve's 302nd Military Police Company (Grand Prairie, Texas) instructed troops from the 3rd MP Battalion/King Fahad National Guard Hospital, Central Sector Military Police Brigade.
While the training was not unprecedented--an all-women U.S. Air Force security unit trained Saudi female MPs three years ago--this is the first rotation for an Army MP unit, according to Capt. Rachel Johnson, executive officer with the 302nd.
Along with their male counterparts, the female MPs protect both the hospital, often searching more than 500 bags and parcels a day.
"We wanted to give these MPs the fundamentals of law enforcement that their male counterparts are given, to do their jobs," Johnson said.
The training, held in a hospital training room, consisted of lectures and practical exercises on MP tasks including interpersonal communication skills, apprehension, search procedures and basic self-defense.
Master Sgt. Anthony DeLawrence, Security Branch senior enlisted advisor with the Office of the Program Manager-Saudi Arabian National Guard, said the training is in line with OPM's train and advise role and is a critical advantage to the hospital MPs.
"When I first arrived to the KSA, we recognized the MPs were hiring females, but they were not offered any of the training their male counterparts were receiving," DeLawrence said.
DeLawrence said Saudi commanders working with OPM saw the direction the country is going, as women have increasingly gained rights under the kingdom's recent monarchs. The Saudi commanders fully supported the OPM advisors' recommendations to train the female MPs, who not only received the technical and tactical knowledge they needed, but also a new level of professionalism.
Johnson and her unit conducted a post-training assessment with their Saudi counterparts and believes the training will prove to be a crucial advantage to both the MPs and the hospital.
"This training empowers these [Saudi] MPs, and they, in turn, become more confident and eager to do their jobs," Johnson said. "It gives them a strong sense of purpose."