NEWS | July 1, 2021

200th Military Police Command hosts detainee operations training event

By Maj. Oluwole Osibodu 200th Military Police Command

The 200th Military Police Command hosted the Detainee Operations Training Event in Southbridge, Massachusetts from June 14 to 17, 2021. The event brought together a vast array of subject matter experts on the topic of detainee operations to share lessons learned from the past and give the participants a chance to envision possible challenges in future large scale combat operations.

Maj. Gen. John F. Hussey, commanding general of the 200th Military Police Command, conceived the idea after learning that his subordinate commanders did not have an appreciation for the complexity of the subject. “I noticed during a quarterly training brief when I started talking about detention operations, I kind of got that ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ look from many of my battalion commanders,” said Hussey. He added that the puzzlement reminded him of his own experiences at that stage of his career and felt it was important to ensure that such would not happen again when his young charges were called on to run detention operations.

The DOTE consisted of teaching, mentoring, briefings, and highly interactive exchanges that no doubt left attendees better understanding the challenges faced by units tasked to run detainee operations. The DOTE featured presentations from senior military leaders, DoD officials, and seasoned civilians who have dealt with detainee operations while working for different agencies.

Notable presenters at the conference included: Gen. (Ret.) David Petraeus, former Commander of United States Central Command and former CIA Director; Gen. (Ret.) Vincent Brooks, former Deputy Director of Operations during the War in Iraq and later Commander of U.S. Forces Korea; Lt. Gen. (Ret.) David Quantock, former Inspector General of the Army and Commanding General of Task Force 134, a unit constructed in 2004 in response to the Abu Ghraib scandal; Lt. Gen. Laura Potter, Deputy Chief of Staff, G2, U.S. Army; and Maj. Gen. (Ret.) William Brandenburg, former Deputy Commanding General (Detainee Operations) and Commanding General of Task Force 134.

Civilian speakers also brought fresh perspectives to the attendees. The command also hosted professor Helio Fred Garcia, a crisis management expert and adjunct professor at New York University and Columbia University, and Mr. Jim Michaels, a former Marine and later senior war correspondent for USA Today.

“The scandals involving detainee operations in the last wars highlighted how detainee operations can have a significant effect on national security and foreign policy interests of the United States,” said Professor Garcia, an avid lecturer on the media response to Abu Ghraib. “As a citizen, I was deeply impressed that the U.S. Army and the 200th Military Police Command are so thoughtful and forward-looking to be ready to get detainee operations right in the next war.”

Bringing experience from time in uniform as well as with the media, Jim Michaels added, “The DOTE conference was a terrific opportunity to exchange ideas and absorb the most current thinking regarding detainee operations. The conference gathered experts in a range of fields--military and civilian--to talk about everything from real-world experiences to the latest thinking regarding crisis management and the media.” Michaels called detainee operations “an area of critical importance going forward.”

One highlight of the DOTE was the presentation by former Air Force pilot Guy Gruters, who spent over five years in captivity during the Vietnam War. Gruters gave harrowing accounts of the inhumane treatment he and his fellow POWs endured at the hands of the Viet Cong. At the conclusion of his speech, all present gave him a standing ovation, and many waited back to salute him and shake his hand. The lesson attendees gleaned from his talk was how the lack of humanity to detainees sows bad blood for generations to come. However, when a professional military maintains good order and discipline by adhering to the Geneva Conventions, that military and the country it represents earn respect for generations.

“The Detainee Operations Training Event was an opportunity for me to train my Soldiers,” said Maj. Gen. Hussey. “I believe the DOTE was a great success. We are planning to have one next year, even larger in scope. We learned about detainee operations from the strategic level of war all the way down to the feeding of detainees at the tactical level. Experts and stakeholders who will be part of this operation on a future battlefield joined together to learn how to do this in a more effective and humane way.”

As the senior military police command of the U.S. Army Reserve, the 200th Military Police Command trains and prepares four brigade headquarters, 22 battalion headquarters and 53 companies dispersed across the continental U.S.