FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — About 50 Army and Marine Corps corrections trainees with Company C, 701st Military Police Battalion, were given the opportunity to tour some of the military’s working corrections facilities, during a July 17 visit to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
According to 1st Lt. Carlos Paiz, Charlie Company’s executive officer and one of the event organizers, the tour, which took place during the final week of training — and was the first of its kind for the company — offered the Soldiers and Marines the chance to gain real-life operational knowledge of the tactics, techniques and procedures of daily correctional duties, while also providing exposure to how their training is applied in a Military Police corrections capacity.
The visit to Fort Leavenworth included tours of the United States Disciplinary Barracks and the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, and Paiz said the new corrections specialists were able to engage with leadership at both facilities, ask questions and — for some of them — meet people they will soon work alongside.
“Giving the trainees the chance to see what they’re going to be doing operationally; hearing them ask the questions they didn’t know to ask before — because now they have a better picture of what they’ll actually be going into — I think this made a lasting impact,” he said.
One of those trainees was Pfc. Isaiah Padilla, who, besides also getting to meet his future platoon sergeant — Fort Leavenworth will be his first duty station — said he found the visit “super insightful.”
“Everything we learned throughout the class, I was able to see most of it at the facilities,” said the Wildomar, California, native. “Everything from entering — what you can and can’t bring in — to seeing how respectful the inmates were. I was expecting something entirely different.”
Charlie Company trains the military occupational specialty 31E Corrections/Detention Specialists — or 31 Echos, as they call themselves in the Army — and the Marine Corps’ 5831 Correctional Specialists, through seven weeks of advanced individual training here. Getting to visit an actual, working facility, however, was a confidence builder for Pvt. Ryan Gonzalez, who will also be moving on to Fort Leavenworth next alongside Padilla.
“Throughout the training, there were times I felt confident and sometimes not so confident with my ability to perform as a 31 Echo,” Gonzalez said. “But actually being able to go into a facility and seeing things for how they are and being talked to by people who really work there made me very confident in my ability to actually work as a corrections specialist in the Army.”
The Carrollton, Texas, native added being “within arm’s reach of inmates” helped him, personally, to see he was ready to perform his role.
“I definitely feel like I could be in a room with an inmate, talk with them normally and use the skills I’ve learned here to manage myself and to manage a prison,” he said.
Beyond getting to see the correctional and detention facilities, Gonzalez said getting to see some of the rest of the installation was another added benefit to the visit for himself and the other new service members.
“About half the class is going there,” he said. “So, getting to see some of the facilities — we got to eat at one of the (dining facilities) there, for example — was a very healthy experience.”
For many of the others in the class, who at least won’t initially be stationed at Fort Leavenworth — the Marines, along with the National Guard and Reserve Soldiers — seeing what are commonly considered the standard-bearer Department of Defense correctional facilities was a valuable experience as well.
Marine Lance Cpl. Aubrey Crookston will be stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and the Logan, Utah, native said gaining experiences in joint environments, such as Fort Leonard Wood and Fort Leavenworth, “definitely helps.”
“It was really interesting to see how the Army runs their facilities,” Crookston said. “It was cool to see some of the opportunities and experiences the inmates get. Being close to them and not being intimidated by them definitely made me confident I can do the job.”
The senior instructor for the company, Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Grajeda — who’s been an Army corrections specialist for 13 years — said 31 Echo trainees most commonly want to simply know what to expect when they enter a facility for the first time. He said having an opportunity like this helps “put a fine point” on the training.
“For any 31 Echo, stepping foot inside your first correctional facility is a pretty impactful moment in your career,” he said. “You’re always going to remember that. Being able to do that with them, and bring a holistic approach to our training, is very powerful.”
Paiz said he hopes this can become a regular event for the trainees prior to graduation — he and his fellow cadre in the company each reiterated how “passionate” they are about training future MPs.
“I know this is the future, and we all care as a team,” he said. “We just want the MP Corps to continue to grow and continue to get the best training possible. Our MP cadre are passionate about the job — the instructors, the drill sergeants, the first sergeant, the whole chain of command here — we’re passionate about training the future.”