Military police must be able to react in a predicable way in very unpredictable situations.
Whether they’re patrolling the housing areas of Fort Drum or checking vehicles on the roadside in Afghanistan, military police Soldiers must be ready and trained to uphold the law and perform their duties in any situation.
When MPs arrive at Fort Drum – those new to the Army or just new to the installation – they must continue their training and learn local operating procedures.
During the Guardian Academy, also known as the Military Police Certification Course, MPs build on what they learned in the school house or at previous duty stations, according to Lt. Dave Shannon, Directorate of Emergency Services plans and training officer.
“We continue and build upon what they have already learned in their basic training / advanced individual training with the most modern and up-to-date law enforcement tactics / techniques using the most current tools and information available,” he said.
While the MPs should have baseline knowledge of their duties, some regulations vary from post to post, according to Staff Sgt. Mike Henning, military training noncommissioned officer in charge.
“Every post has a different way of doing things,” he said. “Our school house at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., knows that (installations) have classes like this. They teach what they can in the time they have, anticipating that we are going to further their education.”
Twenty-four MPs went through the most recent iteration of the course.
“The purpose (of the course) is to expose and train military police Soldiers (on) law enforcement techniques / tactics that they will need while working on patrol here at Fort Drum,” he said. “All newly assigned MPs who will be working in a law enforcement capacity (are required to attend).”
Although the students are military police Soldiers, they operate in New York state. On occasion, MPs must work with their civilian counterparts, and they must be prepared to put cases together in the New York court system, Shannon noted.
“All of the training we do is to the same standards as New York state certification courses,” he said.
Army manuals don’t include some of the standard police equipment, so MPs use state-level certifications, Henning added.
“It’s continuity. Plus, we need something to follow to make sure everything is being taught to standard,” he said.
Attention to detail and upholding standards were reasons Pfc. Ryan Vibbert, a member of the bicycle patrol and a student in the course, chose to become a military police officer.
“MPs are the standard-bearers, and they uphold order,” he said. “They’re the best of the best … and I wanted to be a part of that.
“I just got back from Afghanistan, and this is the first time I’ve done this (type of training),” Vibbert continued. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s really good training, especially with the people running it. They’re excellent instructors.”
The Staff Judge Advocate’s Office also has criteria for MP training certifications based on cases the office receives, Shannon explained. This ensures that MPs and military lawyers both understand local regulations, especially in driving while intoxicated cases and those involving radar detectors.
“We are in New York state and have to prepare our law enforcement Soldiers to the highest level possible to obtain strong conviction rates in the courtroom,” he said.
Together, DES’s Law Enforcement Training Division and the 91st Military Police Battalion are responsible for initial training of MPs, civilian police officers and security guards, as well as in-service training, advanced training and instructor-level certifications, Shannon said.
“Training is never-ending and should always be top on anyone's priority list. Our No. 1 concern is always officer safety and sending our officers home at the end of their shift every day,” Shannon said.
One of the more difficult parts of the course is the Driving While Intoxicated / Standard Field Sobriety Test module, Shannon said.
“It’s exactly the same class that all New York state police officers get,” he said. “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federally funded agency, provides the course to New York state. If we go from here to California, everybody should have the same exact training.”
During the course, instructors – all of whom are New York state-certified – teach the Soldiers about such topics as basic policies and procedures, forms and fingerprinting, to vehicle stops, dispatch and communication, and defensive tactics.
One of the more challenging hands-on training activities in the course was the driving portion. When the class arrived at Wheeler-Sack Army Airfield on June 11, they were met with rain and wet road conditions. Students were required to navigate a twisting and turning course outlined in traffic cones driving roughly 45 mph.
“They’re driving 45 mph, but it feels like 70 mph,” Henning said.
Vibbert said the driving course was much more difficult than he expected.
“A lot of people think we’re coming out here and driving around some cones at a slow pace,” he said. “We got here and saw the instructors do it, and they make it look easy. Once you get behind the wheel, you see it’s not a joke anymore. You really have to push yourself to get through the course and make it back in time.
“The training is excellent,” Vibbert added. “You definitely learn a lot more about the vehicle – they’re a lot more stable and it takes a lot of focus and reaction time.”
Another part of the training required MPs to respond to a simulated domestic dispute and a traffic stop.
“Traffic stops are probably the most common interaction MPs have with the public, so it’s important for them to know how to handle themselves,” Henning said.
Sgt. Ross Cameron, Guardian Academy instructor, agreed.
“Everything we learn to do on the installation goes hand in hand with our mission when we’re downrange,” he said. “Being in law enforcement helps make us better Soldiers, whether we’re on patrol, making a traffic stop or entering buildings.”