News: MP mission evolving
Story by Andrea Stone
FORT CARSON, Colo. - After more than a decade of war, the mission for the 759th Military Police Battalion is shifting. With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the emphasis was on deployment and combat support, but with the reduced pace of deployments, that’s changing.
“It was what we would call a very small ‘P’ in police and a very big ‘W’ for warrior,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Heberer, 759th MP Battalion commander. “We were very focused … on our combat support mission.”
During deployments, the MPs assisted host nations in developing their own police forces.
“The Army and senior leaders relied on military police to advise them on helping establish rule of law. You have to maintain security; you have to have a credible police force to do that. You have to help the court system become credible and understand evidence and constitution and rules of law,” Heberer said.
With the rapid pace of deployments, there was a need for more civilian police to maintain security on Fort Carson.
“We hired all our civilian (police officers) because then we took all the military police forces out … and deployed them multiple times into theater,” he said.
With the slowing pace of deployments and the budget challenges, military police are taking over more of the functions previously handled by civilians, and the focus has shifted to more community-oriented policing, but the lessons learned during the years of war have carried over.
“Today, our model is very crime (intelligence) based,” Heberer said. “We learned that in Afghanistan and Iraq, defeating (improvised explosive device) networks. It’s the same analysis we do here for crime and unit indiscipline.”
It’s a shift that some soldiers who’ve grown accustomed to the rapid training and deployment schedules can find difficult.
“Some of my young leaders that ‘grew up’ deployed three times, that’s all they know. They were warriors or war heroes. They spent time running around Iraq and Afghanistan looking for al-Qaida,” he said.
“What I will tell them is, we’re making the paradigm shift, coming full circle. A lot of things we do for law enforcement deployed and here, they’re universal. It’s the same mission,” he said. “If you understand community policing and relationships here, then you can do it in Iraq, you can do it in Afghanistan … it’s the same missions, just done differently in different places.”
One component in the community policing effort is the Sentinel Professional Policing Academy, a monthlong course for all incoming 759th MP Battalion soldiers. The program consists of two weeks in class, one week of scenario-driven exercises, followed by a week to 10 days of field officer training.
“We take them through the (academy) so they have an understanding of what the directive is,” said Mark Crozier, Fort Carson police chief.
The goal is to teach them proactive, rather than reactive, policing.
“I’m not so concerned that we have a call for ‘X’ case that we’re responding to. How do we prevent that from happening through our policing strategy? How do we get more police out there engaged in our community? How do we better educate the community?” Heberer said.
Part of the training strategy is an emphasis on community partnerships. In July, the MPs joined forces with the Fountain Police Department and Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 to conduct joint training at Mountainside Elementary School. The training was to help standardize the response to a potential active shooter scenario.
“We wanted to make sure there was one system that was being done,” said Maj. Christopher Bolt, provost marshal, Directorate of Emergency Services. “That way, when (teachers) move around inside the district, it’s still the same. It doesn’t matter if they’re on Fort Carson or they’re out in Fountain.”
In addition, Fort Carson police meet regularly with law enforcement officials from around the area.
“We have very deep, committed relationships with the local law enforcement community,” Heberer said. “So much of our (intelligence) outside the installation comes from our civilian law enforcement partners. What are the trends in Colorado Springs right now? What are the trends in Fountain that we should be worried about?”
There is a balance the MPs need to achieve, though. While there is an increased focus on being community police inside the garrison, there is still a need to continue training as soldiers.
“(They) still have to be prepared to go to war,” Bolt said. “They have to train on those perishable skills … because there (are) more missions than just a law enforcement function with the MPs.”
The challenges the MPs face mirror many of the challenges the entire garrison will face in the future.
“It’s not only us that has to get used to garrison operations again. It’s everybody,” Bolt said. “We’re going to see some challenging times in law enforcement, as well, because the soldiers who are used to doing nothing but training, training, training and deploying, that deploying gap is going to be out the window now.”