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Deploying Small Elements: A Quick Look at the 59th Military Police Company’s Mission to Support Strategic Protective Service Detachments
Erik J.M. Gemza
The threat of a senior government official being attacked, killed or kidnapped is nothing new even though the names of threat organizations have continuously changed over the years. In the U.S. Army Antiterrorism Officer course and the Protective Service Training course, the story of Brigadier General James L. Dozier’s 1981 kidnapping in Verona Italy by the Red Brigade stands out as just one of the many lessons to justify the requirement for continuous protection of our military’s key and senior leaders. Since then, the Military Police Corps continues to be the DOD proponent for the protective service mission in support of our senior military and civilian government leaders stationed abroad and traveling throughout the world.
The 59th Military Company received the mission in 2013 to deploy four separate protective service detachments (PSDs) throughout 2014 to locations in the Middle East and northern Africa. The PSDs were composed of Military Police Soldiers varying from a squad down to team size detachments depending on the major command’s (MACOM) requirements. The leaders of the 59th MP CO reviewed multiple factors and characteristics of each MP Soldier assigned to company in order to select the best for attendance to the U.S. Army Protective Service Training Course (PST-C) at Fort Leonard Wood, MO.
One MACOM had a sergeant (E-5) and above only requirement, while the others were not so strict in respect to rank. In protective service operations, Soldier characteristics including maturity, experience, interpersonal skills, and physical/mental agility are more important than just rank alone. Military leaders will often revert to rank requirements even though junior enlisted Soldiers may be more experienced and competent at tasks than their supervisors.
Physical fitness test scores, weapons qualification scores, misconduct and criminal records were also reviewed for above average performance and conduct. Military Police conducting protective service operations will often operate in very small teams with little or no guidance to conduct advanced reconnaissance tasks or follow-on tasks during a mission movement. An MP Soldier may have to rely on their own capability and skills to complete a task in order for a senior military or civilian government leader to be successful in their own mission.
Unique Challenge: Even though a single company is tasked to support a PSD mission, the 1SG must work with the BN S-1 and CSM to fill the positions with competent and capable Soldiers from other companies within the Battalion or Brigade. The Company CDR and 1SG should not just select Soldiers for PSD deployments within their company if they do not have confidence in their ability to perform reliably. A relief for cause would be an undesired result.
Training and Certification
After the selection process was completed candidates were enrolled into the next available PST-C at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. This training gave the MP Soldiers the basic understanding and skills of protective service operations to continue training at home station with their assigned detachment. The PST-C also provided the Soldier with an additional skill identifier (ASI) of D7 (Protective Services Specialist) which is required to serve in PSD positions. The D7 ASI is also an administrative tool that can be used to locate certified and experienced Soldiers outside of the tasked company to help support the assigned mission.
Once the MP Soldier successfully completes PST-C and earns their D7 ASI, they return to Fort Carson to begin training with their respective Detachments. The Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant are the individuals that plan and facilitate much of the training but it is the detachment NCOIC who is the rank of SSG (E-6) or SFC (E-7) that executes the training on a daily basis. Because of the timeline of the deployments, much of the resource intensive training including weapons ranges, combatives, combat life saver and emergency vehicle operation courses were consolidated for the first two detachments and the second two detachments respectively to save on time and resources.
The PSD certification is a collective training event (CTE) that is the final step that occurs before the PSD MP Soldiers are authorized pre-deployment leave. The CTE is conducted over a week and involves participation from a senior military or civilian government leader on the installation to serve as the principle. The benefit of utilizing a General Officer for the CTE helps the MP Soldiers understand the role of various staff of the Division Headquarters to include the executive officer, aide-de-camp, secretary of the general staff (SGS) and command driver. Also the role of the protocol office in protective service operations is critical for MP Soldiers to better understanding the movements, customs, courtesies and seating arrangements that normally occur with both U.S. and foreign leaders during meetings and other formal events.
The PSD CTE is broken up into three phases. The first phase is when the principle’s calendar is provided to the PSD NCOIC by a member of the staff. The PSD begins advance work and recons of areas that the principle is planning to visit during that week. Concurrently a control room or operations center is established in vicinity of the principle’s primary office by the NCOIC in order to plan and coordinate all protective service operations. Non-tactical vehicles are procured from the installation TMP or rented and are used throughout the CTE for the various protective service tasks including transporting the principle and staff.
The second phase of the CTE includes the evaluation portion where the Detachment NCOIC interacts directly with the principle and staff and the PSD becomes TACON to the principle’s organization. The platoon leader and platoon sergeant take a step back from their training role and fulfill the role of OC/T along with available subject matter experts on PSD operations from CID, MPI and other organizations. The OC/Ts take notes throughout the CTE and provide feedback during a hot wash at the end of each day on observations that must be improved or sustained during the remainder of the CTE.
The third phase of the CTE begins upon the end of the exercise (ENDEX) and includes recovery operations of vehicles and equipment and sterilizing office areas of any training material or documents. An after action review (AAR) will occur between the OC/T, PSD MP Soldiers, operations staff and the unit commander in order to solidify observations into a formal memorandum for record to submit to the battalion commander for certification of the detachment. If there are any critical deficiencies noted retraining or administrative corrections must occur immediately and be recorded prior to submission for detachment certification.
Unique Challenge: Selecting the right principle is imperative to achieve the desired training goal. A General Officer is the best principle to use for protocol reasons, but a Battalion or Brigade Commander may have a more flexible calendar to participate in unscheduled events. Manipulating the principle’s calendar will help challenge the PSD and cause stress on the Soldiers testing their resolve and mental agility.
Even though it is not a training task, procuring temporary change of station orders (TCS), passports, rapid fielding initiative (RFI) equipment issue and soldier readiness processing (SRP) are all necessary for the timely deployment of the PSD MP Soldiers. All of these tasks must be done concurrently as the MP Soldier continues through the training process. A hold-up of any one of these administrative or supply actions may result in the failure to deploy a complete PSD hindering their ability to operate at their fullest potential. It is recommended to start this for all candidate Soldiers as soon as they are identified even if they are not selected to deploy immediately. An ample bench of trained, certified and ready to deploy PSD MP Soldiers is necessary for unexpected life events.
The family readiness group (FRG) is a critical part of preparing Soldiers and families for separation for a long period of time during a deployment. The focus for FRG meetings leading up to a deployment is on financial management, family resiliency, and operational security. Having spouses and children at the meeting is important especially for the operational security training due to the increased reliance on social media to communicate during a deployment. FRG meetings are a great opportunity to verify and update contact information of spouses and family members since it is common for them to move out of the area and stay with extended family during deployments.
PSD deployment travel is coordinated through the installation transportation office and often involves a mix of commercial and military contracted aircraft. The 59th MP CO procures and provides load-out bags and weapons cases for each MP Soldier to utilize for the deployment and redeployment along with any subsequent travel during their overseas tour. The PSD MP Soldiers are authorized to supplement baggage with personal luggage or issued duffel bags to be able to deploy with enough equipment and personal items to sustain themselves for up to a year. Due to the small size of the element and less intensive requirement for equipment, shipping containers are not used. Before departure from the aerial port of debarkation, a small farewell ceremony is conducted which includes family members, senior leaders, unit commanders and organizational staff, specifically including the chaplain and the military family life counselor (MFLC).
Unique Challenge: A medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) of a PSD MP Soldier of any rank deployed must be planned for and rehearsed. Because of the specialized training and certification, not any MP Soldier can fill a vacant position. The bench must include a sample of all ranks and they must go through the CTE with the deploying detachment. Continuous monitoring of the MP Soldiers on the bench must be done to ensure that they do not fall out of medical or admin tolerance so they can receive a GO during final pre-deployment SRP.
Redeployment and Reintegration
Prior to leaving the MACOM area of responsibility (AOR), the PSD MP Soldiers will complete any pre-redeployment training tasks as dictated by their forward chain of command. All returning flight arrangements will also be scheduled through the forward headquarters and travel office. The 59th Military Police Company obtained the Fort Carson standard operating procedure (SOP) for reintegration training and focused on tasks that are critical to be completed prior to the start of any scheduled leave period. The majority of the reintegration training can be coordinated through the Army Community Services (ACS) office and conducted in the unit area for small redeploying elements.
Upon redeployment, the PSD is picked up utilizing non-tactical government vehicles and brought back to the company area where they will be welcomed by family, friends and members of the unit. While they turn in any equipment or weapons they are provided food and refreshments by the FRG. A safety brief is conducted by the commander and the PSD MP Soldiers are provided a multi-day pass to readjust to the local time zone and spend time with their families. The PSD MP Soldiers will conduct critical reintegration training tasks according to the local SOP and are then provided an opportunity to take leave before returning to duty with the Military Police Company.
Unique Challenge: Due to the nature of a PSD deployment, OPSEC is imperative and a traditional redeployment ceremony broadcasted through local news outlets is not recommended. PSD MP Soldiers are exposed to senior military and civilian government leaders making them a prime target for subversion and espionage. A small and intimate ceremony including family, close friends and key leaders is acceptable. Making the experience for the PSD MP Soldiers special and memorable is the priority.
The Military Police Corps is one of the most deployed branches of the Army with the ability to reorganize and be re-tasked with short notice. The history of the 59th Military Police Company includes a range of deployments and missions all over the world supporting both combat and humanitarian tours. The most recent chapter in the 59th MP CO book shows that the Warrior Police are capable to continuously adjust to the operational environment and support the senior military and civilian government leaders of the United States Government.