Officials from 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield hosted a law enforcement symposium at Fort Stewart Feb. 18-19, 2021. The event was a collaboration with law enforcement partners from across the region to include Liberty Country Sheriff, Hinesville Police Department, Bryan County Sheriff, Richmond Hill Police Department, Garden City Police Department, Statesboro Police Department, U.S. Marshals Office and members of the FBI. Georgia State Patrol, Long County Sheriff, Chatham County, and the Savannah Police Department were also invited. Command teams from across 3rd ID and garrison also attended.
The 385th Military Police Battalion and the Fort Stewart Directorate of Emergency Services organized the event. Maj. Gen. Antonio Aguto, the commanding general of the 3rd ID, Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, wanted the event to be both educational and relationship-building.
“The safety of our force and community is a team effort,” said Aguto. “Collaboration events like this are not just about what we can do better for our Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Community, but what we can help with for the greater law enforcement enterprise in the area. It’s important to ask what we can be doing better in their eyes, while keeping them informed of where we might need more of their expertise or assistance.”
The two-day event included briefings from several different agencies to address issues and educate each other on their challenges, capabilities, and best practices. It also included a briefing by Ms. Bonnie Sharp, an analyst for the National Counterterrorism Center.
“The law enforcement symposium was an event created to highlight our regional law enforcement and ensure commanders were aware of the law enforcement capabilities both on and off the installation,” said Maj. Erin Peterson, the Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Directorate of Emergency Services Operations Officer and lead planner for the symposium.
Since the Fort Hood Independent Review was published in December 2020, the Army has outlined an updated framework of recommended actions, considerations, and activities to commanders and Army law enforcement to assist in determining whether a Soldier’s absence is voluntary or involuntary.
The symposium helped ensure commanders were informed of crimes and procedures both on and off installation. It also outlined further responsibilities that commanders and law enforcement personnel must execute for involuntary missing persons’ cases and desertion cases.
It’s important for civilian law enforcement to understand because the changes in Army policy may lead to an increase in attempt to locate requests for the Soldiers and family members that reside off post.
“A secondary objective of this event was for commanders to become acquainted with the local law enforcement agencies and build ‘connective tissue’ to enhance our relationships with them in order to address corrosive behaviors that Soldiers may be participating in both on and off the installation,” Peterson said.
As a precursor to the Secretary of Defense-ordered stand down on the topic, the symposium also included a brief about “Extremism in our Ranks,” by Supervisory Special Agent Robert Payne, a U.S. Army War College research fellow from the Atlanta FBI Office.
The Army is committed to working closely with the FBI and local law enforcement on any accusations to charges pertaining to extremist behavior.
“Events like this are important for ensuring we are being proactive with information sharing to reduce crime in areas like drug suppression and increase joint law enforcement operations on the installations,” said Lt. Col. Craig Giancaterino, Commander of the 385th Military Police Battalion and Provost Marshal/Director of Emergency Services for Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield. “It’s also important as policies change to continuously inform our law enforcement partners and commanders on how the military law enforcement operates and educate ourselves on the crime areas off-post so we can assist in getting the information out to our community.”
Organizers said the symposium, the first of its kind for the Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield Community, opened dialogue and increased awareness of off-post hot spots and future partnership and networking opportunities to prevent and solve crime. The goal is for this to become reoccurring event.
“We are excited for the future law enforcement engagements beyond this symposium as we work together to provide analysis, feedback, and general situation awareness to the commander toward facilitating and enabling this posture and work rapidly toward crime incident reduction,” said Giancaterino.
"This symposium was a great start to future endeavors. I look forward to working with the Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield leadership in caring for and protecting America's greatest asset, our servicemen and women," said William Bowman, Sheriff of Liberty County.