FORT DRUM, N.Y. - Soldiers push deep into enemy lines, collecting enemy prisoners of war as they go. The military police detain them and provide security, but where are they housed? As per the Geneva Convention, it is our responsibility to feed them, give them water and provide shelter. While MPs can handle those first two duties, building a facility where prisoners can stay … that’s a job for engineers from the 248th Engineer Company (Combat Support Company).
The 248th, based out of Norwich, Connecticut, is responsible for horizontal and vertical construction. During war, these engineers use their machinery to remodel the terrain to create fighting positions for protecting Soldiers and their vehicles. They also construct fortifications or other structures, like guard towers on forward operating bases.
However, for this annual training, they constructed a detainee holding area (DHA) to provide shelter and humane living conditions for enemy prisoners of war. These facilities are typically found behind the front line and must conform to the Geneva Convention.
“It’s supposed to be able to hold five to 10 prisoners in a field environment, keep them safe, keep them out of harm’s way,” explained Capt. Nathan Caso, commander of the 248th Engineer Company. “Having electricity, running water, those are some basic necessities for living in a prison environment [that enemy prisoners of war] are going to be in for some amount of time (until they are moved to a more secure facility).”
Constructing this facility started long before the 248th arrived at Fort Drum.
Caso said the 192nd Engineer Battalion and 192nd Military Police Battalion, supervised by the 143rd Regional Support Group, collaborated to develop a construction plan that kept material costs low while meeting legal requirements.
The plan called for the facility to be modular, making it easy to assemble, transport and disassemble.
“Our fourth platoon, in combination with the MP's vertical construction section, prefabricated most of this in Connecticut, in Norwich, right in our armory,” said Caso. “So all we had to do when we got on the ground was assemble it.”
To get the sections to Fort Drum, the 1048th Medium Transportation Company provided a flatbed truck to move them to the training area. Once there, the engineers assembled the sections and built the rest of the facility, adding electricity and plumbing.
“They love it out here,” said Caso. “This is exactly what they signed up to do.”
Soldiers from the 192nd Military Police Battalion used the facility to secure simulated detainees captured during training. The engineers disassembled the facility to take it back to Connecticut, where it will be rebuilt and used for further training.