By Sgt. Christopher M. Gaylord, 5th Mobile Public Affairs DetachmentFebruary 25, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Normally, training comes as often for the 67th Military Police Company as it does for any other Army unit.
But this year, its Soldiers will be lucky to make it to the field once.
The company and its sister company, the 595th MP Co., both assets of the 508th MP Battalion., uphold one mission: manning JBLM's Regional Correctional Facility and caring for its inmates.
But the 595th's departure in November for a yearlong tour in Afghanistan left the 67th the only company available to run the facility, leaving no time for training.
"We used to have eight-week training cycles; one company would be in the facility for eight weeks while the other one trained for eight weeks, and vice versa," said Capt. Darren Moe, commander of the 67th MP Co. "But now that the 595th is deployed there's really only the 67th to man and run the prison."
With 100 percent of the company's time taken running the prison, two of the company's eight squads can be fortunate they had the chance to throw a wrench in their day-to-day routine and return to the grass roots of their Soldier and MP skills Feb. 13-16.
"A lot of these guys, they're glad to be out of the facility," Moe said, watching his Soldiers from a balcony Feb. 16 as they practiced riot control operations in protective padding and face shields on the ground below, facing the simulation of a very possible reality -- an inmate uprising against the prison's guards.
"Obviously things can get monotonous in there, so they enjoy it. It's a break from the mundane and day-to-day things."
Each day, the two squads travelled to a remote and rundown looking defensive base camp on JBLM's training grounds -- an enclosure of seven-foot-high concrete walls with a few storage containers inside to serve as small buildings.
For the purposes of this training, the camp was meant to mirror what the Soldiers might see running a correctional facility in a deployed environment.
The squads refreshed their first aid skills, brushed up on Army hand-to-hand combat and sharpened their communication and reporting techniques at the squad level -- all staples in the repertoire of common Soldier tasks.
"It's just an opportunity to pull them out of the facility, sharpen their skills so they can really reapply them in the facility and be a cohesive unit," said 2nd Lt. Charles Ryan, leader for the company's 2nd Platoon. "Overall, they're without a doubt better Soldiers right now."
But the training was also a chance for the Soldiers to break the repetitiveness and humdrum of running a correctional facility.
"It's good for morale; it's good for camaraderie," said Spc. Taylor Davis, an internment resettlement specialist with the company's 2nd Plt. and a Shelbyville, Ill., native. "It's good for our unit. It just gets us together and brings us outside the jail and gives us a taste of what the real Army is about.
"I love hands-on training -- just playing Army."
Davis said he thought November would be the last opportunity for him to leave the jail -- to escape the mundaneness of eight-hour shifts supervising inmates.
"It's good getting outside," he said.
"It's an opportunity to get them out of their everyday routine mission, so they're not having to work with prisoners -- they're actually out in the field learning and training, and really being Soldiers again," said Ryan, a Huntsville, Ala., native.
The culmination exercise to the company's training had them face-to-face with the scenario that they were running an internment facility in a deployed environment and locals began rioting outside their camp's concrete blast walls.
The drill tested every single skill the Soldiers had refined the previous days and gave some of the company's newer Soldiers their first brush with a field environment since basic training.
"A lot of them are brand new out of Advanced Individual Training, so all they know is the jail, and they've never been out to a field environment," said Staff Sgt. Augustine Delacruz, a squad leader with 2nd Plt. "This right here, it uplifted their morale and will help them in the long run."
The exercise, which had the squads treating casualties wounded by simulated gunfire and defending themselves with thick plastic shields in a line formation against violent, enraged civilian role players, was once a reality for Delacruz during his deployment to Camp Buca, Iraq.
"Other forces and infantry -- they depend on our detainee operation knowledge to help them in their environment," Delacruz said.
Soldiers with the company stepped up to work 12-hour shifts instead of their typical eight to free up their comrades for the week of training. The company also borrowed a small group of Soldiers from its battalion headquarters to fill in for the regular crew.
"It really is a battalion effort in every sense of the way to get these guys out to train," said Moe, a Fresno, Calif., native.
But nonetheless, he added, the company is nothing short of lucky for the opportunity to give some of its Soldiers a little quality time with a training environment.
"Just the fact that we're training in itself is unique. We're very happy that we can actually get them out and train."
The company plans to similarly train the rest of its Soldiers, two squads at a time, every few months.