FORT KNOX, Ky. – For the last 10 years, the 200th Military Police Command headquarters has been preparing thousands of troops to deploy anywhere in the world, but with the growing global threats facing America, the headquarters itself may be required to fight in the next big war.
For this reason the command headquarters trained in the field at Fort Knox, Kentucky, pounding tent pegs into rocky ground, using folding chairs, tables and tents to replace the comfort of their office spaces back home.
“The 200th Military Police Command will be ready when called upon,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Craig D. Owens, command sergeant major of the 200th MP Command. “We are training hard, getting physically and mentally ready, so if that call comes, we will be ready.”
The field training exercise lasted from April 20 through May 6, 2018, in which the headquarters simulated a deployment environment responsible for all military police operations on the ground.
Yet, as soon as the headquarters set up operations in the field – finally finding comfort in their new tent “homes”¬ – the exercise required them to move again, a process known as “Jump TOC.” Soldiers took down tents from one location to reset several miles away, this time in the rain, finding comfort in the thought that their peers and senior leadership were there by their side. Soldiers of all ranks worked together to pound tent pegs with a sledge hammer and raise tent poles for sleeping and operational use.
“We are training in the field to be able work in an austere environment successfully because everything that is expected out of our leadership and staff in the rear, should be expected out of us once we deploy,” said Owens.
During the exercise, the 200th MP command worked around the clock, responding to challenging scenarios based on situations they might face during wartime. Each built on the one before, growing in complexity for staff to problem-solve and coordinate across sections.
“Being able to feel the difference between working back home at the headquarters versus in the field has been the biggest benefit of working out here,” said Col. William Vaughn, chief of staff for the 200th MP Command. “It takes a different, more intricate level of coordination under a higher level of stress to complete any task. This has helped gel us as a staff.”
The scenario based exercise required staff and leaders to respond to situations such as mass casualties, transferring enemy prisoners of war (EPW), coordinating the movement of camp sites, responding to a Soldier suicide and reacting to installation attacks. Most of these scenarios – known as “injects” in the Army training world – required strategic responses, not merely knee-jerk reactions.
The tactical operations center acted as the heart of the command headquarters, receiving and pumping information to all the sections. Each of the other staff sections – logistics, human resources, intelligence, staff judge advocate, public affairs and chaplains – acted as the organs of one body, processing information and providing solutions based on their individual expertise.
“We are a two-star headquarters,” said Owens. “The staff and Soldiers have to be able to identify problems and come up with solutions to fix them. We're not going to always have the opportunity to go to a higher headquarters (for all the answers).”
As a deployable headquarter, the 200th MP Command provides mission command for all military police assets and coordinates all MP operational support in a theater of operations.
“The 200th MP Command is very broad in what we can do,” said Owens. “In our formations we have specialties in support of detention operations, combat support, law enforcement, criminal investigations and protective service.”
That means military police are responsible for securing and transferring EPWs, as well as provide security to convoys and support infantry in winning the fight on the ground.
As the command headquarters wrapped up its 17-day training exercise, clouds rolled back and the sun shined through. Soldiers and senior leadership worked side by side to break down tents and pack up their equipment. They returned home ready to operate as a unified cell.
“I have faith in our leadership and our Soldiers,” said Owens. “Any mission that is presented to us, we will handle that mission with no problem.”