By Mr. Gustavo Bahena (Irwin)November 5, 2009
A patch of dirt was full of boot prints. Uniformed personnel scrutinize the area. A man photographed the ground. This scene might make you think of a TV police show, or even a real crime scene. This scenario did occur, but it was during a training event held Oct. 24 -25 that provided the Fort Irwin U.S. Army Garrison Military Police Company an opportunity to practice skills normally used by civilian officers.
The MP Company received its training from local civilian police agency representatives. The civilian policemen provided training according to California Peace Officer Standard and Training guidelines, which are the strictest in the nation, said Capt. Jason Kim, commander for the MP Company. Civilian police agencies who participated included the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Glendale City Police Department, and Huntington Beach Police Department. Most of the instructors also serve with the California State Military Reserve out of Los Alamitos, Calif. The instructors had previously trained the MP Company and were familiar with the Soldiers and how they have progressed.
"They've seen the Soldiers develop and improve over the past six months," Capt. Kim said. "It really allowed them to focus their efforts in certain areas for the Soldiers - it's almost a custom tailored training event."
The entire MP Company was able to attend the Special Law Enforcement Training. The SLET event taught skills that went beyond the fundamentals, Capt. Kim said.
"It covered some advanced topics that normally MP's won't ever get a chance to train on unless they actually respond to an incident, which is too late," Capt. Kim said.
The civilian law enforcement training was important because police on Fort Irwin serve the same function as police on major city streets, said 1st Sgt. Dennis Barberic, with 4th Military Police Battalion, of the CSMR, who served as an instructor during the training. He is also a retired lieutenant from the Hawthorne Police Department.
"They have banks here, they have schools here, they have office buildings here, they have a shopping center here - everything we have on the outside, they have here," said 1st Sgt. Barberic. "Military police officers need to know how to respond to these situations. That's why we're training them."
The training allowed military police to address skills they don't get to execute on a day-to-day basis, said Col. Jim Chevallier, commander the for Fort Irwin U.S. Army Garrison. They were provided with worst case scenarios, such as the active shooter in the school, to practice those skills, Col. Chevallier said. The result of acquiring and using those skills is a safer community on post.
"The protection of the community is always going to be at the top of priorities," Col. Chevallier said. "With both our MP and Department of Army civilian police - we are going to ensure they have the highest caliber of training and qualifications that we can achieve, in order to protect this community."
The MP Soldiers received instruction in CPR and first aid (including receiving certification), crime scene investigation, handgun manipulation, and weapons use at night. The MP's also rotated through five scenario lanes where they received instruction and were evaluated. They performed crime scene preservation at a scene with a deceased baby and at a location with a distraught man attempting suicide. They also practiced interview procedures with a role player acting as a sexual assault victim. Tactical skills were applied while clearing a classroom and when responding to an armed suspect inside Fort Irwin Middle School.
The two-day training culminated in the utilization of several skills during an active shooter crisis at the middle school. The MP's arrived to the school in force and organized themselves into smaller groups. They assessed and responded to the situation, all the while remaining in communication with each other and the situation commander. The two "suspects" involved were neutralized as the school remained on "lockdown." The MP's afterwards received constructive feedback from the instructors.
Staff Sgt. Rocio Lucero, a squad leader with the MP Company, said that having instructors who have civilian experience helps MP's with their approach to scenarios that normally don't happen on post. Nevertheless, they need to be prepared for anything, she added.
"I've dealt with the combat side of being an MP, so this definitely has given me a better perspective of the garrison portion of my job," said Staff Sgt. Lucero, who has been an MP for seven years and has two combat tours in Iraq. "It's helped me as a leader ... and it's helped me realize that there are potential threats out there."
Spc. Robert Cover, a military policeman with the MP Company, said the training was current and extensive. He also said it was some of the best training he had received as an MP in the Army.
"It's taught me different types of techniques," Spc. Cover said. "I'm very grateful for it and very excited about it."