News: Military Police train for counterinsurgency
Story by Sgt. Mark Miranda
FORT IRWIN, Calif. – Military Police soldiers assigned to the 571st MP Company took part in a situational training exercise at the National Training Center Nov. 5 that placed the company in the role of conducting a key leader engagement in the “town” of Ertabat Shar.
“Other objectives for this exercise will be to conduct a joint dismounted patrol with soldiers in the Afghan army and to assess the needs of the people in the area. We want to build a relationship of trust, while at the same time building confidence with the people in the area and shape how they view Afghan National Security Forces,” said 1st Lt. Calvin Mattingly.
The goal is to put the ANSF in the lead, to develop perceptions in the local populace that they are a legitimate government force.
All participants in the scenario to include soldiers, ANSF, opposing forces and civilian role players were outfitted with Military Integrated Laser Engagement System harnesses, which register “hits” when an individual is killed or wounded in action.
Preparations for the STX began the day before, with platoon leaders going over plans, timelines and the roles that each squad would play in the scenario.
“We discuss every bit of detail to set us up for success. We know what grid coordinates we’ll operate in, and the proposed routes there and back. We know which squad will be the recovery team, which squad is securing the main route in from the North,” said Cpl. Andrew Hefford.
Upon arrival to the Ertabat Shar training site, squads designated for the dismounted patrol took up defensive positions while the rest of the convoy vehicles staged in their designated areas.
With the mayor unavailable, Mattingly met with the local Afghan police chief, to get a feel for the environment in which his unit would be operating.
The dismounted patrol walked through the streets of Ertabat Shar and took small arms contact from a team of insurgents. After a brief firefight, the MILES gear determined two enemies were killed and two MPs were wounded.
“We sent vehicles in for the casualty evacuation, and my squad was in charge of calling in the medical evacuation request,” said Pfc. Raul Galvan, a military policeman from Corpus Christi, Texas.
With casualties taken to safety, the Afghan police chief accompanied a team assigned to collect information on persons of interest, to see if the bodies of enemy killed in action could be identified. The team examined the enemy KIA and collected biometric information: fingerprints, retinal scans and names when possible, for placement in a database used for counterinsurgency operations.
Another purpose for the dismounted patrol’s street-level engagements with the local population was to gather atmospherics; to get an idea of how people perceive the ANSF, what local businesses may be intimidated, even information leading to the source of funding for insurgent cells.
Pfc. Hector Garza, a military policeman from San Antonio, Texas, was a driver on a squad assigned to vehicle recovery operations.
“We pulled security on the perimeter of the town, and were ready to respond in case any of the vehicles encountered improvised explosive devices or rocket propelled grenades. With all the chatter on the radios, we were anxious to get in there, especially when we heard that the dog team found an IED,” Garza said.
Pvt. Christina Ruiz, a military policeman from Brentwood, N.Y., was a gunner on a vehicle securing the northern part of Ertabat Shar.
“The patrol took contact again, that resulted in another three enemy KIA. This training definitely makes you rely on your situational awareness, and on making sure everyone knows their job,” said Ruiz.
At the end of the training exercise, the 571st MPs gathered for an after action review with a NTC combat training team to identify areas of success and discuss what needed improvement.
“This training was so realistic, more so than what we’ve encountered before with the huge town, the role players and effects,” said Galvan. “A lot of what I did today makes me think of what kinds of situations I could find myself in during deployment and the things I need to do to be ready.”
After a day of high adventure, the 571st MPs headed back to their combat out post to conduct more in depth after action reviews, reset and incorporate the lessons from Ertabat Shar into their standard operating procedures.