FORT HOOD, Texas - Red and blue lights flash behind you. A young soldier steps out of his patrol cruiser his torso covered in a black vest with the words “Military Police” emblazoned across his chest.
You may have seen the military police around post with a new black outer tactical vest.
This new outer tactical vest is in response to the shooting incident on Fort Hood in November 2009.
“The people who responded had a hard time determining who was a victim, who was a potential suspect and who was a responding law enforcement because everybody was wearing the same uniform,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Peter J. Ladd, 89th Military Police Brigade. “So one of the recommendations in that was that responding emergency personnel and law enforcement should have another means of identifying themselves so when they do come up on a scene people know who they are and know where to get help from.”
During the incident in 2009, the only means of identification the military police officers had was a two-inch by four-inch shoulder tab that says MP and their vests were worn under their Army Combat Uniform blouse.
Easier identification is one of a multitude of reasons the military police on post have adopted these vests.
“For me being as small as I am, being able to walk into a place and people realize I’m military police is what I’m looking forward to,” said Sgt. Kimberly Bower, a traffic collision investigator with the 178th Military Police Company, 89th Military Police Brigade who stands a little over five foot tall.
Another big reason for these new outer tactical vests is its versatility. The vests can be used for a multitude of missions outside of the garrison environment.
“It’s not a vest, it’s a vest carrier,” Ladd said. “By using this, we can use it in other operations to where a soldier deploys to a noncombat partner capacity building mission.”
The carrier also enables soldiers to be able to adapt to different roles via the hook and loop fastener across the chest and back.
“If they were doing a customs mission, I can take the military police off of the front and put “Customs” on it,” Ladd said. “It’s another form of visual recognition for a soldier. There are multiple bangs for the buck.”
The soldiers were carrying a lot of weight on their hips which caused back pain and time lost from work.
“I was trying to figure out a link between lower back injuries with a soldier sitting on that gear having to get up out of a vehicle,” Ladd said. “Although I couldn’t connect the dots fully, I did start to see some kind of correlation. In concert with the recommendations that came out, how can we get some of that gear off of their waist to one, allow freedom of movement and flexibility and two to alleviate some of the lower back pain that some of our soldiers were experiencing.”
A few of the MPs have already seen and felt a difference.
“I have a lot of back and hip problems. It takes a lot of the weight off of my hips,” said Bower, a Baltimore native. “Everything is up on my chest. Nothing is on my back. It’s not as heavy as I thought it would be.”
The final reason, according to Ladd, is simple hygiene. Their previous vests rested against the soldiers undershirt and were exposed to their sweat which causes the equipment to breakdown.
“It takes the vest off of the skin and lengthens the life of the vest,” Ladd said.
The feedback from the military police in the field that Ladd has received indicates a success and a push to expand the equipment into the standard issue for all military police across the Army.
“I’m glad we have it,” Bower said. “It took a while, but we finally got a tactical vest.”