KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Kronos Troop, 2nd Calvary Regiment were alerted on a Saturday that they needed to help establish and support temporary living facilities for thousands of Afghan travelers in Kaiserslautern, Germany, four hours away from their base in Grafenwöhr, Germany.
They arrived Monday afternoon with an entire troops’ worth of infantry Soldiers.
“2CR is blessed with the training and the ability to deploy at a moment’s notice,” said 1st Lt. Zachary Smith, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Calvary Regiment, Kronos Troop Executive Officer. “Granted we didn’t take our Strykers up here, we took a bus. But with that training we were able to take orders and initiate movement and move up here in a very speedy manner.”
Rapid mobility was needed to ensure safe, temporary lodging, food, medical screening and treatment for travelers as thousands streamed in to various U.S. military bases, including ROB, during Operation Allies Refuge in August.
“I’m most likely to remember exactly how rapidly we had to mobilize and how quickly we got so many people here, how quickly we set up all the facilities, and how in just a day or two it all filled up immediately with travelers,” said 1st Lt. Spencer Hurley, 18th MP Brigade, Platoon Leader, Day Shift Security Officer in Charge for MPs.
Now that the temporary living facilities have been well established, the mission is to keep the approximately 7,000 men, women and children travelers, as well as hundreds of volunteers and military personnel supporting Operation Allies Welcome at ROB safe and comfortable.
Security forces include multiple U.S. military police companies based in Germany, including MPs and engineers from 18th MP Brigade. Units include 902nd Engineer Company from Grafenwöhr; 92nd MP Company from Kaiserslautern; the 529th and 571st MP companies out of Wiesbaden; 527th MP Company out of Hohenfels, and Soldiers from Kronos Troop, 2CR as well as German Feldjägers and the German Bundesweher.
The Bundeswehr filled key leadership and operational roles in Afghanistan and their presence at ROB builds on established relationships and enhances interoperability with the host nation.
“Interoperability is the ability to act together coherently, effectively, and efficiently,” said Cpt. Matt Grider, Kronos Troop Commander, 3/2 CR and OAW Security Officer in Charge at ROB. “It is more than just equipment and systems — it is about processes and relationships.”
The OAW joint security forces at ROB are interoperability in action.
While joint operations are common for the Bundeswehr while on missions or at NATO bases, they do not usually occur within Germany, said German Company Commander, Cpt. Janet Radekopp, from the 2nd MP Regiment, based in Hilden, Germany.
“Working with other nations, the U.S. MPs — I’ve never done this before and it is a great experience,” she said. “We are standing side by side with our NATO partners and the U.S. Army and the U.S. Forces. We all work together.”
Radekopp says German forces do joint patrols with the U.S. MPs 24/7, and so far there have been no major challenges. She appreciates the opportunity to learn from U.S. Soldiers as well as the travelers, who bring a variety of cultural backgrounds to ROB.
“Being on the base feels a little bit like being in America,” she said, citing the dining facilities and U.S. military vehicles as obvious reminders of being on a U.S. military base. “I learn something new every day.”
Hurley said he appreciates the opportunity to establish relationships with German Soldiers. “We’ve come to know a lot of the fellow feldjägers specifically because they work with us,” he said. “A lot of my Soldiers are trading patches, coins and what not, making it a positive experience, getting to work with the host nation in a way that we usually wouldn’t be able to.”
OAW is also an opportunity for U.S. Soldiers and Military Police trained in engineering, combat tactics, force protection, anti-terrorism and area security, to put their skills to use in new ways as they gain insight and experience that comes from supporting a real-life mission.
For example, Hurley’s platoon was recently trained on detention operations, but OAW is far from a detention operation, said Hurley.
“Due to the travelers’ status and the situation as a whole, we’re not here as guards ... we’re solely here as a policing force to make the facility as safe as possible for these travelers,” he said.
“The travelers here are not detainees, they’ve done nothing wrong. However, combining what we know of our detention training and our daily law enforcement missions that we provide here in the Kaiserslautern military community area, we’re able to take the best of both to improve the safety of the facilities and care for the travelers as best we can.”
According to Hurley, Soldiers have been able to adapt their skills to meet mission needs.
“I found it’s been very rewarding to take part in a real-life mission, and actually put, if in an unorthodox way, some of what we’ve trained on to use doing something real,” he said.
Although their mission is not typical, ROB security forces still perform typical security details, including regular patrols.
“Also, if and when we do get reports of any suspicious activity or suspicious packages, we will immediately cordon off the area and call German authorities and take any measures necessary in order to ensure the safety of the travelers and our fellow soldiers,” said Smith.
He added that their main focus is to make sure nothing happens inside of ROB and are able to monitor “hot spots” where things could either come in or go out easily.
There are approximately 500 children at ROB, and although dealing with children is something that is more focused to military police investigators, military police in general have more specialized training working with children than most of the regular Army. Those skills are being honed during OAW.
“A lot of what we have learned here, has been learned in the facility,” Hurley said. “A lot of what we’re using to make friends with the populous and to be that positive presence that we need to be has been learned on the fly, working with the children, working with the families."
When told about reports of Afghan youth at ROB expressing desires to become U.S. Soldiers, Smith responded, “That in and of itself is pretty rewarding and pretty cool to see and hear about. It means a lot for younger Afghan men or women to want to join the United States military. It shows how much of an impact we’ve had on their lives — and them us, as well.”