NEWS | Sept. 12, 2016

Military Police begin training for GITMO through CSTX

By Staff Sgt. Debralee Best 84th Training Command

During this training exercise, they focused on detainee operations, a common task for Military Police, but this time there was a unique aspect to the training

“Both of the companies working with us in the exercise, we’ll be working with in Guantanamo. I’ve been deployed three times and that’s has never occurred, where the annual training prior to deployment we worked with the chain of command we’d deploy with,” said Lt. Col. Jennings W. Bunch Jr., commander, 535th MP Bn. “I think it’s phenomenal. We can start building those relationships now and see strengths and weakness… and just be able to put a name to a face before we meet them in theater.”

While all three units will link up in theater, they will not arrive at the same time. The 603rd MP Co. will begin the mobilization process in a few months while the other two units will follow within the next year. The training provided during the CSTX has been a good starting point for their mission at Guantanamo Bay.

“It’s definitely getting down to the fundamentals of everything,” Sgt. Steven Sewell, team leader, 603rd MP Co.

“Doing detainee operation in Afghanistan in ’04, ’05 and then Iraq in ’07, ’08, they are completely different and Guantanamo Bay will be completely different, but I think the training site out here and the training we receive is a very good base for any detainee operations we would do,” said Bunch. “The facility here is really good … it’s a good assembly of any place you’re going to go or of any one you might set up. It kind of gives you an idea of how you want to establish it.”

When another unit was unable to support the Guantanamo Bay mission, the 603rd was notified that it was their mission.

The commander and first sergeant came on board in February and began building up personnel strength by cross-leveling Soldiers. Cross-leveling is transferring Soldiers from one unit to another so they can prepare for deployment.  Most of the Soldiers are volunteers, according to Capt. Mandy Coy, commander of the 603rd. The CSTX was the first time since April that the entire company has trained together.

“This training for us was more. We’re training on detainee ops, but it’s also a chance for us to get the whole company together and see who’s going to gel. Teambuilding, seeing how our squad leaders are working with their squads and team leaders,” said Coy. “Almost like an esprit de corps test for the unit. To be honest, they have done better than I could have expected. It’s good to see these guys work together.”

This exercise was also a good learning experience on ways to avoid future errors.

The 84th Training Command designed the CSTXs to replicate what Soldiers may be faced with during an operational deployment. Soldiers find themselves reacting to different scenarios and when the training is over, they discuss whether or not they did the right thing and how they can do it better in the future.    

“We can make mistakes here and we can reset it. That doesn’t occur when you’re deployed,” said Bunch. “This is just a really good annual training for us. It resembled a short deployment which I know it was meant to do. It wasn’t particularly easy, but it wasn’t so overwhelming that anyone failed. I think everyone learned throughout this training and that’s important.”

One confidence builder for their upcoming mission to Guantanamo Bay is the experience that some of the young Soldiers bring from working in similar fields as civilians.

“The benefit that we have, and I don’t know about a lot of other MP companies, is I have probably 25 percent of my MPs are civilian corrections officer. Another 25 to probably 40 percent are law enforcement officers so we’ve got that civilian experience that backs that up,” said Coy. “I have a couple of specialists who do this on the civilian side, who have come out here and they’ve taken charge of stuff because they have that civilian experience. They know it.”

This is only the beginning for these units. The next stop is Fort Bliss, Texas, where they will continue training before leaving for their mission in Guantanamo Bay.