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NEWS | Oct. 8, 2015

Army Reserve Special Agents train in Charleston

By Staff Sgt. Rufus Stuckey 200th Military Police Command

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Army Reserve Soldiers recently gathered to train at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center for Guardian Shield 2015.

The two-week event that began, August 22 is hosted by the 733rd Military Police Battalion (CID) out of Fort Gillem, Georgia.

Guardian Shield is an annual event in its sixth year and primarily developed for Army Reserve CID special agents.

This year’s student body also includes Soldiers from, active duty, reserve and Guard as well as some Coast Guardsmen. Additionally, military service members from Australia, Canada, England and Italy are attending.

By the end of the event more than 140 agents will receive critical training intended to be used in their military job, but can also in many of their civilian careers.

“This Guardian Shield is unique from other Guardian Shields because the agents leave with official Department of the Army 1059 certificates,” said Lt Col. Eric J. Prugh, the commander of the 733rd Military Police Battalion (CID). “In previous Guardian Shields they have done very positive tactical operations and they have done a lot of work outside of the classroom, but this Guardian Shield the students attend accredited USAMPS [U.S. Army Military Police School] sponsored required classes that they need for their career and they leave with a DA 1059.”

The DA 1059 is the official Department of Army form that documents a Soldier’s completion of a training course instructed by the Army.

The Soldiers are primarily training in three courses during this year’s Guardian Shield.

The courses were selected by reviewing CID agent required training and evaluating the training needs of the more than 300 CID agents in the Army Reserve.

The courses selected were Special Victims Unit Investigations Course, Domestic Violence Intervention Training and Crisis Negotiation training.

Some non-agent Soldiers are also receiving Drug Suppression Team training.

Prugh counts this a successful event when the students gain knowledge they can use in both their military and civilian careers.

“When they leave here, they leave with something that they can apply on the Army side and the civilian side. They can do enhanced investigations, they can do real world investigations to support the Army and their civilian careers, particularly if they are law enforcement oriented,” he said. “It enhances the partnerships between the Army Reserve and civilian employers.”

Special Victims Unit Investigations Course

Fifty-one Special Agents attending Guardian Shield 2015 are attending the Special Victims Unit Investigations Course.

The ten-day course taught by USAMPS covers topics that include sexual assault in the military, sexual offenders, the impacts of sexual assault, alcohol facilitated sexual assault, collection of forensic psychological evidence, sexual assault injuries, abused children and preparing for trial.

“The emphasis on SHARP [Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention] and prevention of sexual harassment in the Army is huge,” Said Prugh. “We now have agents who are fully trained and certified to go work in that arena in a proactive or reactive mode.”

The course explores the emotional and psychological effects of traumatic experience.

“We’re learning a lot about the human brain and how trauma effects those areas of the brain, how it affects a victim’s memories and how we are able to speak with the victims about the traumatic experience,” said Special Agent James Schalla a member of the 307th Military Police Detachment (CID) based in Jacksonville, Florida and a student in the class.

“The first week they are teaching you about the human brain and about the interviewing technique called FETI [Forensic Experimental Trauma Interview],” Schalla said. “It’s an interviewing technique that helps solicit information from trauma victims by using open ended questions and essentially allowing them to tell their story and what they remember without too many direct questions being asked. It helps them remember things they may have forgotten due to the traumatic event.”

Schalla is also a CID agent in his civilian career and said he will be able to use what he is learning in both his military and civilian investigations.

“It will absolutely help my interviewing and communication skills - interviewing witnesses and subjects,” he said. “As a Reservist, I work in the Active Duty special victims unit at Fort Bragg. So at drill, I will put the skills that I have learned to use in a real life situation.”

Domestic Violence Intervention Training

There are two sessions of the week-long Domestic Violence Intervention Training class during this Guardian Shield.

“Our goal is that the students have a better understanding of domestic violence so that way you have a more complete investigation,” said Larry Maxwell an instructor for USAMPS and teaches the Domestic Violence Intervention Training course based at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Students learn through lectures and practical exercises about the dynamics of domestic violence, the psychological aspects of victims and abusers, the effects on children, non-violent crisis intervention, case preparation, officer survival skills as well as other topics.

“We talk about the whole domestic violence arena,” Maxwell said. “From what is it, to how do we investigate it, to what happens to the case afterwards.”

“Because MPs don’t always meet a victims expectations, when they respond we schedule a victim to speak and this is a chance for the students to ask questions,” he said.

The guest speaker for the class is Capt. Brandi Thorpe the commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment 15th Military Police Brigade at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and a domestic violence victim.

“I talk with the classes and share my personal experiences with Domestic Violence for several reasons,” she said. “So that they can tie in all the information that they learned during the week and also to share my experience to those who are in abusive relationships or are abusers.”

Most of the questions Thorpe receives during her presentation center around the same topic – as responders, what can we do better to help the victim?

Thorpe replies, “What can a first responder do to help a victim when responding to a domestic violence case? The answer is really nothing - especially for someone in an abusive situation. When they’re calling, they want help but they don’t want you to come in and tell them what they need to do - they are calling because they want whatever is going on, at that time, to stop.”

“People in that situation want help,” she said. “But there is nothing that you are going to do or say that is going to make them change their mind that night and leave or make them decide they are going to terminate the relationship.”

Thorpe consistently receives encouragement from the classes she speaks to.

“The most powerful thing I get from the class is that my presentation is the most valuable information that they get during the whole class because they actually get to talk to somebody who has lived it, who has had to deal with it and who is still dealing with the after effects of being in an abusive relationship,” she said. “It is very rewarding and it is actually healing for myself.”

“Our goal is so that the military can be more proactive instead of reactive,” Maxwell said. “A lot of times we can catch this at the non-violent argument stage and we’re now taking steps to be more proactive so that way it won’t get to the violent stage.”

Crisis Negotiation

Agents attending Guardian Shield are also learning crisis negotiation from the FBI.

“The FBI Crisis Negotiation course is a nationally taught, very highly sought after negotiation course,” said Prugh. “It’s taught on both the military and civilian side and they get a certificate for completing it this week. It’s another thing they can use making them a better-rounded competent agent.”

Students were excited to have the FBI teaching a course.

“It was taught by the FBI and gave us a different perspective from what we normally have,” said Special Agent Nancy Cooley of the 200th Military Police Command.

The instruction focused on basic communication and negotiation at the beginning and progressed from there.

“The class was a little intimidating at first but with the role play it really worked out,” said Cooley. “We worked up from baby steps to the big finale. On the last day we had had five different scenarios.”

The instruction centers on communication and active listening.

“The main thing we emphasis is using communication skills that will allow the person in crisis to ventilate their frustrations and their problems,” said the FBI instructor (un-named by request). “When they tell people about these things, they don’t act out violently and they come down from an emotional state to a rational state.”

The instructor said the more students know about communication the more successful they will be in crisis negotiation.

“We hope the students gain another tool for their tool belt. They’re not always going to be in a situation where it is practical to use crisis negation techniques, but there are some situations that this can help,” said the instructor. “You can use active listing skills before they get to that crisis. You don’t have to wait for the guy to be standing on the ledge getting ready to jump to talk a suicidal person down or take the gun out of their hands when you see the stress building up in their lives.”

As the security director at the Washington Navy Shipyard in her civilian capacity, Cooley says she will use the skills she has learned every day.

“One of the main ideas I will take back is active listening,” she said. “Not just waiting for those crisis situations but listening to the people around me - my colleagues and my peers. It reinforces the need to make sure I take care of the people around me and listen to what they’re saying when they go through a crisis, whether it’s a personal crisis or something professionally that happens on the job.”