News: 1137th Military Police Guardsmen conduct state emergency training
Story by M. Queiser
WAPPAPELLO, Mo. – Guardsmen can be called to state emergency duty any time, and soldiers of the Missouri National Guard's 1137th Military Police Company want to be sure they’re always prepared for that call.
During their recent training, the soldiers focused on the tasks and responsibilities, as military police officers, they would do while supporting local first responders.
For the soldiers, the training is about refocusing their mission and goals to better serve Missouri.
“Focusing on a state emergency environment prepares us for our mission in Missouri,” said 1st Sgt. Patrick Cunningham, of Gideon.
This training is the soldiers first time in the field since returning in August 2012 from a 10-month mobilization providing security for military bases and personnel in Qatar.
“We came home from our deployment in August, but we still have the adrenaline of that in our system and minds,” said Spc. Kyle Whited, of Bloomfield.
Their focus has to transition from security in a combat zone to security on the home front.
“It’s a whole different world in a deployment than in a state emergency duty,” said Whited.
While their training is similar to their overseas missions, they have to take in other factors, said Sgt. Adam Wells, of Farmington.
Factors such as interaction between soldiers and civilians, supporting local first responders and authorities, and finding quick solutions to a changing climate such as flood are a part of that federal to state transition, said 1st Sgt. Patrick Cunningham.
“For a year we’ve been in another mode,” said Cunningham. “We need to build up our focus on a state emergency environment rebuild its readiness and response as soon as possible,”
Safety and communication are the top priorities during the training.
“Communication is one of the most important things we do,” said Wells, a squad leader. “Accurate communication can cause or deflect an issue.”
“You have to know how to talk to people,” said Wells, who remembers his experiences while deployed supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in 2009 - 2010. “You have to respect the public and relay information in a respectful manner.”
While his platoon out of Kennett is strong in coordinating road and entry checkpoints, a specific duty they had while deployed, missions such as setting up and running road detours is something he hasn’t done a lot lately, said Whited.
“We sat down as a group and talked about how to engage civilians,” said Whited, adding it’s about telling yourself you’re home now.
Even something as simple as someone taking photographs at a checkpoint he reminded himself that although that wasn’t allowed in Qatar, it's fine here, said Whited.
The training prepares them for situations that can happen at any moment and keep people they know safe, said Spc. Joshua Smith, of Bonne Terre.
“We can reduce accidents and help control and prioritize the flow of traffic for emergency vehicles,” said Smith.
He still remembers the role his unit contributed during the Joplin tornado clean up, and the positive impact they can have on the community, said Smith.
“This is something every soldier needs to know because we can need it any time, emergencies can happen any time,” said Smith.
A lot of their Guardsmen work for local law enforcement and bring that experience to the unit, combined with soldiers who have multiple deployments makes them even stronger, said Sgt. Adam Helvey, of Van Buren.
“We have a lot of experience to do these mission and do these jobs right,” said Helvey.
Passing along that experience is also an important goal during the training because the unit has many new faces who enlisted while the unit was deployed.
“The unit has done this over and over again with fewer and fewer mistakes each time,” said Spc. Johnny Thomas, of Poplar Bluff. “It’s important to pass on that knowledge to the new Soldiers.”
Working one-on-one with new soldiers in his squad gave him the chance to help them build their communication in social situations and build their confidence, said Wells.
Helping the new soldiers and passing along his experience was important to his unit’s future success, said Smith.
“Training allows you to bond so when a future mission comes along you’ll know how each other work,” said Smith.
Unit and squad camaraderie strengthens their focus on transitioning from security in a combat zone to security on the home front.
With the threat against his personal safety and the safety of his fellow soldiers lifted, he can put all his focus on the mission at hand, said Spc. Jesse McElroy, of Poplar Bluff.
“It’s nice to switch from a combat zone to our state mission,” said McElroy. “We’re helping our people and locals we know.”