HOHENFELS, Germany — The 54th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade integrated two military police platoons and two military working dog handlers into their operations to assist with a wide range of tasks during Exercise Saber Junction 20 in Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, Aug. 16, 2020.
Saber Junction 20 is a 7th Army Training Command-conducted, U.S. Army Europe-directed annual exercise designed to assess the readiness of the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade to execute unified land operations in a joint, combined environment, and to promote interoperability with participating allies and partner nations.
“We’re out here to see what our capabilities are. We’ve been training leading up to this,” said Sgt. Lisa Tamez, a team leader. “We want to see what capabilities we have in correlation to other units.”
As engineer battalions are typically comprised of mostly support positions, and with their sapper platoons being forward while in deployed environments, the rear tactical operations centers are forced to outsource their security operations.
“They’re a combat multiplier, said Capt. Joseph Benning, the assistant training and operations officer for the 54th BEB. “They obviously bring a lot of guns to the fight and a lot of trained soldiers.”
Additionally, the MP’s are crucial for enabling interactions between detainees and human intelligence collectors assigned to the military intelligence company of the 54th BEB.
“They provided the security to interview them one-on-one and helped facilitate that operation,” said Benning.
The two MP platoons that were attached to the 54th BEB for the exercise are based out of Stuttgart, Germany, assigned to the 554th MP Company, 709th MP Battalion, 18th MP Brigade.
While the primary reasons for attaching the MP’s to the 54th BEB include detention operations for notional opposing force detainees and rear area security for the tactical operations center, both the 173rd Airborne Brigade as well as the MP’s greatly benefit from expanding their role and presence within the exercise.
When the 173rd were concluding their annual brigade field training exercise in Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, opportunities arose for the 54th BEB and the MP’s to become acquainted with each other and explore strategies by which their time together could be optimized and the full potential of the MP platoons could be utilized during Saber Junction.
“We did some training with them,” said Benning. “We got them prepared for security operations, detainee operations, traffic control point operations, as well as bomb sniffing dog operations.”
A young military working dog named Dolce is being exposed to a hyper-realistic wartime environment, preparing her for what she will face when deployed.
“There’s a lot of moving parts and it’s really going to test her ability to stay on task,” said Spc. Jermaine Lewis, her handler. “[This training is] preparing us better for downrange.”
On one occasion, recounted Lewis, an MP Humvee that was part of a convoy escorting 54th BEB commander Lt. Col. Sean Shields to a key leader engagement was hit by a notional IED. Instead of immediately dragging the casualties out of the vehicle, the area first had to be swept for additional explosives.
“We cleared the route where they got hit with the IED, then we cleared the vehicle. When we searched the vehicle, we did find an IED,” said Lewis. “There’s nothing better than a dog’s nose when it comes to finding explosives.”
The MP’s presence within the exercise has not only assisted the brigade and their training objectives, but has built readiness for the 709th MP Battalion, as large-scale exercises like Saber Junction expose soldiers to the full spectrum of military operations.