FORT MEADE, Md. — Two military police brigades located on America’s West Coast – one Army Reserve and one active duty – have begun a partnership to better prepare their Soldiers for war.
“If we go to war, there’s going to be all three (Army) components involved, no matter what,” said Col. John Hafley, commander of the 11th Military Police Brigade, an Army Reserve unit headquartered in Los Alamitos, California.
Their active duty counterparts in Washington State agreed that building relationships now is vital.
“Our Army and our nation expect one capability from us, whatever your specialty may be. They’re not really concerned when we deploy … what component that’s from. If you embrace that now, it reduces the learning curve once you’re down range,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Flom, the command sergeant major of the 42nd MP Brigade, active duty, located on Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Washington.
In early January, the 11th MP Brigade invited the active duty MP leadership to attend their Yearly Training Brief, which is a major planning meeting involving their battalions to discuss training plans for the coming year. Both parties appreciated their attendance, and the 42nd leadership also mentioned how impressed they were by the commitment to duty by their Army Reserve counterpart.
“These (leaders) are putting in their 40-60 hours in their normal jobs and they’re putting in another 10-20 hours a week, minimum, on their (military) leadership … so hats off for what they do,” said Col. Thomas Russell-Tutty, commander of the 42nd MP Brigade.
Though there are national training exercises that combine all three components year-round, it’s rare to find units with similar specialties who commit to a long-term relationship that extends beyond scheduled training events. Typically, when those exercises are over, each unit goes its separate way.
“(By doing this,) we become familiar with how we operate, and it just makes operations in a combat environment that much smoother,” said Flom.
Because many Army units – including military police – are “modular,” they can be plugged into any Army hierarchy during a deployment. That means an Army Reserve brigade deployed overseas will likely be in command of active duty and National Guard units. The same is true the other way around.
“We’ve got to grow together and work together (now) because at the end of the day, on our uniform it says U.S. Army. It doesn’t say Army National Guard. It doesn’t say Army Reserve. It says U.S. Army,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Winsome Laos, the 11th MP Brigade’s command sergeant major.
The training emphasis for both MP forces is to function in austere locations with possible compromised communication technology. The envisioned fight is not against insurgent forces, but against what the Army calls “near peer” enemies, structured and equipped similarly to America’s own military.
“We have the same strategic challenges (as the active duty units). At the end, we’re both trying to attain the same results, and that’s to have a ready force,” said Laos.
Though both are brigades, they have structural and experiential differences that add to one another’s span of knowledge. For example, the 11th MP Brigade is located in California, but two of its four battalions are in Texas and Arizona. The 42nd MP Brigade has all of its units on JBLM, responsible for maintaining law and order on base, securing prisoners at a military detention facility, and training their Soldiers for combat environments. Their active duty Soldiers perform their functional specialty every day. Army Reserve MPs can benefit from active duty partners for their day-to-day military experience, while also providing knowledge from their own civilian careers.
“There’s a hundred different ways to solve a problem, and every unit, every organization, whether you’re military or civilian, over time, you kind of get stove-piped into how you look at problems and how you solve them. Just by working with other units and other Soldiers that have seen different things, it widens your perspective, opens up your parameter on how you look at a problem in big and small things,” said Russell-Tutty.
Besides active duty experience, their installation at JBLM has 91,000 acres of land to offer, with facilities that include both urban and field environments. The 42nd can also provide real-world military detention training at the prison they manage. In return, the Army Reserve MPs will provide coaches and trainers for an upcoming Warfighter exercise, a certification requirement for active duty MPs.
“Training with those Soldiers at all levels is a golden opportunity,” said Hafley. “My focused training (is) on units of action.”
But even if neither unit deploys soon, this partnership helps both components in their overall readiness.
“I think the best part about the partnership is we’re able to share experiences, lessons learned, tactics, techniques and procedures of how to tackle not just tactical but operational, and sometimes commanding problems… it’s great,” said Russell-Tutty.
In addition to exchanging training support, the 11th MP Brigade is expected to gain an Army Reserve battalion and company at JBLM in the near future. Even though both brigades are on the West Coast, 1,100 miles of roadway separate them. Having the active duty brigade nearby would provide local support to those Army Reserve units at JBLM.
Additionally, the National Guard owns the 49th MP Brigade in Fairfield, California, which has been involved with both of the other two components in the past. Right now, the partnership is still young, but it could grow to include all three components as their companies and battalions train together in the long term.
“When we are deployed, when our nation calls us to battle, wherever that might be, you have all three compos working together … so we need to start working early,” said Russell-Tutty.