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Missouri Guard retrains out-of-state soldiers to become military police
Missouri Guard retrains out-of-state soldiers to become military police

Staff Sgt. Jose Oquendo of the 301st Military Police Company at Fort Buchanan in San Juan, Puerto Rico, practices handcuffing classmates during phase I of the Missouri National Guard’s military police specialty reclassification course.
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Feb. 5, 2010) — A mixed unit of 30 soldiers, led by a contingent of 13 Army Reservists from Puerto Rico, recently completed the first phase of military police, military occupational specialty reclassification training with the Missouri National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 140th Regional Training Institute on post.

Phase I deals mostly with law-and-order tactics.

“Some of them will be able to pick up the difference between the civilian law enforcement and the military law enforcement,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Brown, military police branch chief for the training institute. “Those who have never been exposed to it, hopefully, will get a good feel for being able to respond to situations as they come up.”

Along with Guardsmen from Missouri and Reservists from Puerto Rico, Brown said there are three Guardsmen from Florida and one each from Kansas, Pennsylvania and New York in the class. The popularity of the course from soldiers outside of the state likely has to do with Fort Leonard Wood's status as the home of the Military Police schoolhouse, Brown said.

“Fort Leonard Wood is the home of the Military Police Corps, so we get a lot of attention from units, as far as wanting to get their students enrolled,” Brown said.

Staff Sgts. Jossie Aviles and Jose Oquendo are the senior noncommissioned officers for the group from the 301st Military Police Company at Fort Buchanan in San Juan, Puerto Rico, who are taking the course.

It wasn’t unusual, Oquendo said, for his unit to train in the United States, about once a year for annual training. Aviles said he’s used to training outside Puerto Rico with more than 12 years of service.

“I’ve seen a lot of the world,” he said.

Aviles and Oquendo were both pleased with the instruction they received in the course.

“The training is outstanding — it’s real hands on and I like it,” Aviles said.

“It’s very interesting,” added Oquendo, who also has been a policeman as a civilian for 14 years. “The instructors are well prepared and their demonstrations are good. The classes we’ve taken are very helpful, not only for the military, but on the civilian side, too.”

Because of his civilian career, making the move to a military policeman seemed like a natural fit for Oquendo, who has four other military occupational specialties.

“I like the job,” Oquendo said.

Despite his knowledge of civilian law enforcement, Oquendo said he’s getting plenty from the course.

“I’m learning a lot,” he said.

Aviles hopes the course will make him a better leader in his military police unit.

“I want to be real competent when I walk out of this place — be a regular military policeman,” Aviles said. “I’ve got troops under me, so I want to be competent when I go out to the field. I’ll have hands on training and I’ll know what I’m talking about.”

The course continued on to its second phase of training, which will end Feb. 5.

Upon completion, the soldiers, several of whom have a civilian law enforcement background, will be qualified to do any military police mission, Brown said. The core missions would include law and order, area security, interment operations, maneuver and mobility support operations and police intelligence operations.

The course’s two phases are spread out over four weeks — two weeks per phase — that includes both classroom training and practical experience in the field.

During the first week, soldiers went over baton training, self defense and how to handle riots and other civil disturbances.

“An integration of civil disturbances, law and order operations, forms, use of force, and communication skills gives them the tools needed to go out and perform their duties,” Brown said. “We teach self defense, apprehend the subject and search the subject using defensive tactics.

“Part of our duties in law-and-order military policing is to learn how to defend ourselves. There are times when we may encounter people who become difficult to deal with. Our military policemen need to know how to survive and control a situation, while using the minimum amount of force necessary.”

Sgt. Randall Leiker, 1138th Military Police Company of Springfield, said the self-defense tactics that were taught will prove useful.

“Anytime you come up on somebody that is unruly or combative, you’ll need that,” said Leiker, of Brighton.

Leiker said the takedowns and submission holds were his favorite. The instruction starts with a crawl through the stages of each hold to help build muscle memory for the moves.

“When we started, we would go through the holds,” Leiker said. “Then you would go on break. When you came back, you wouldn’t necessarily remember it. But then the next day going through it, you remembered a little bit more and it was an easier transition going from one hold to another.”

Sgt. Maj. Jay Mardsen, command sergeant major of the 205th Military Police Battalion in Poplar Bluff, has five other military occupational specialties, none related to the military police. So going through procedures step-by-step has been very beneficial.

“The training is excellent,” said Mardsen, who lives in Dardeen Prairie. “It breaks it down so that a soldier who has not performed any of these duties gets the basics.”

Mardsen said in his position, he probably could have gotten away with not taking the course, but decided it’s in the best interest of his soldiers for him to know what they were going through.

“The colonel that interviewed me for the command sergeant major position asked if I would be willing to go through the course and I said, ‘Yes, I would,’” Mardsen said. “We are also deploying in March, so this is the right thing to do. It will help me understand the basics and help me teach other soldiers.”

One of the highlights was learning to use the PR-24 batons as both an offensive and defensive tool.

Leiker said it’s going to take him a lot of practice to be able to do the different spins with the baton, while maintaining control of it.

During the second week of training, the soldiers patrolled in cars and went through four exercises designed to test their ability to answer complaint calls from people inside a simulated city.

Each day, half the class participated as responding military police, while the other half was role players as perpetrators or witnesses.

“It teaches you how to respond to different things going on, how to respond when things change,” Brown said of the training. “It also shows you how to go out and interact with other people.”

The necessary interpersonal communications skills, Brown says, are typically the most challenging part for the soldiers to pick up.

“A lot of soldiers have never had to do any kind of training that involved interpersonal communications skills,” Brown said. “Some of that is new for them and they learn a whole lot from doing the hands-on exercises.”

The exercises involved a domestic disturbance in a home, a disorderly conduct call from a bar, a rape crime scene in a barracks and a drunken driving stop.

“There are two exercises that contend for being the toughest,” Brown said. “The first one would be the rape scene, because of the nature of the case and because it deals with evidence questioning, which is really difficult.

“The other is the domestic, again because of the nature of it, but also because there is a lot more paperwork that goes with it the way that we have it set up.”

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