USAG HUMPHREYS, South Korea—After nearly a decade-long hiatus, military police professionals from the U.S. Army Reserve and the Republic of Korea Army came together for a combined training exercise.
The tabletop wargaming exercise commenced on March 21, 2023, at Camp Humphreys during Freedom Shield 23, presenting the opportunity for military police soldiers from the 290th Military Police Brigade, headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., to train for the detainee operations mission with their counterparts from the ROK Army.
“The intent today is to simulate some of the basic mission interactions that would occur during combined detention operations in the Korea Theater,” said Col. Jonathan Bennett, Commander, 290th MP Brigade.
The simulation focused on one essential mission interaction, transferring U.S.-captured detainees to the custodial authority of the ROK Army. This mission, during wartime, would occur at a combined U.S.-ROK detention facility known as an International Transfer Point.
The transfer of detainees, including enemy prisoners of war, or EPWs, and civilian internees, or CIs, requires meticulous attention to detail and close coordination between the U.S. detention operations units and their ROK counterparts. During the introduction to the exercise, Bennett used the analogy of a baseball game to emphasize the importance of a team obtaining a shared understanding.
“In a baseball game, if the pitcher and the catcher aren’t communicating, you can’t accomplish very much,” said Bennett. He then explained, when the two team members are in perfect understanding, they can achieve their goals, much as the ROK and U.S. military police can fulfill the mission of rapid transfer of detainees into permanent holding facilities while treating all EPWs with dignity and respect.
“This event enhanced procedural interoperability between U.S. and ROK Army Military Police forces in preparation for detention operation requirements during Large Scale Combat Operations,” said Brig. Gen. Matthew N. Metzel, Deputy Commanding General (Operations), 200th Military Police Command. “Activities, such as these, help strengthen integrated deterrence and are nested within guidance outlined in the National Defense Strategy and National Security Strategy.”
Partners from 8th Army Provost Marshal’s Office, the 200th Military Police Command, and other units with a vested interest in the detention operations mission attended the tabletop exercise. These partners included a general officer panel consisting: of Major Gen. Joseph D’Costa, Deputy Commanding General (Support), 8th Army, Brig. Gen. Matthew Metzel, Deputy Commanding General of the 200th MP Command, and Brig Gen. Park Heon Su, Provost Marshal General, ROK Army Military Police.
The session opened with briefs that illustrated the detention mission capabilities and doctrine. The Brigade presented the U.S. capabilities, followed by Lt. Col. Kang Seung Il, OPMG Planning Officer, ROK Army, who briefed the ROK Army detention mission. These briefs generated lively discussion and a rapid-fire question-and-answer session that touched on different elements of the mission such as sustainment, intelligence, and medical support.
After a short break, the military police Soldiers from the ROK and U.S. Army conducted a rehearsal of concept, or ROC, drill, simulating the preparation to transfer detainees, and the actual actions to transfer custody from the U.S. military police to the ROK Army. Approximately 20 ROK military police Soldiers sat across the table from the 290th MP Brigade Soldiers, taking turns working through the actions that each would conduct to complete the transfer. When questions arose during the training, the participants worked among themselves to propose solutions or make a note of the topic for future training.
“This event was a culmination of eighteen plus months of meticulous planning,” said Capt. Jacob Kim, 317th Military Police Battalion Human Resources Officer. “It could not have been possible without earnest efforts from both ROK and U.S. military police professionals to re-establish interoperability and advance our mission readiness.”
Before the tabletop exercise, members of the Brigade traveled to meet with the ROK Army military police units and visit three sites at which the ROK would establish the transfer points. Kim, a native Korean speaker, played an invaluable role during these site surveys, liaising with the ROK military police counterparts and providing valuable insight into the language and culture of South Korea for his fellow Soldiers.
The training mission offered “…unparalleled access to our ROK counterparts,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hogan, Commander, 304th MP Battalion. “Extremely grateful for the access and ability to discuss the tough questions with our allies.” Hogan added that this training set the stage for future opportunities to meet challenges in interoperability on the operational and tactical levels.
“[T]he relationships we built with our 8th Army partners, CFC USFK partners, and most importantly our ROK Army teammates and counterparts, created lasting bonds,” said Master Sgt. Grant Smith, 304th MP Battalion Operations Sergeant Major. “As we demonstrated our ability to bring everyone to the table to discuss this problem set, it was evident that the level of engagement and willingness to work together will be the solution to a better tomorrow.”
The terrain walks, tabletop gaming exercise, and the conversations between the training audience and observing units “…significantly increased interoperability,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Rattan, Brigade Operations Officer. “The terrain walks at the International Transfer Points considerably improved the common operating picture between the two organizations. The Wargaming exercise tested the 1982 MOA and helped us understand each force’s capabilities further and engage in dialogue to define combined tactics, techniques, and procedures for use at the International Transfer Points.”
Many of the senior leaders who attended the training agreed with Rattan.
“It was great being able to interact with our ROK Army counterparts and to be able to discuss the similarities and differences we have,” said Command Sgt. Maj. David Brockett, 160th MP Battalion.
As the exercise transitioned to the end, participants spoke of their hope that this exercise would not be the last opportunity to conduct combined military police detention operations training.
“We hope this is just the beginning of continued cooperation and combined ROK-U.S. MP training that we envision over the next few years,” said Bennett. “Our longer-term goal is to build up to a true functional joint exercise which is hands on and would include a scaled, simultaneous operation of a U.S. and a ROK detention facility, as well as an International Transfer Point.”
“Detention operations is too important, too vital to our mission, to wait another twenty years to come together as a combined team and work through this complicated mission set,” said Maj. Gen. D’Costa. “We must build relationships and processes that survive personnel transitions, encourage us to ask the right questions, learn as a team, and grow in our expertise and readiness.”