FORT PICKETT, Va. – Army National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers from across the country joined together July 6-20, 2014, at the Fort Pickett-based 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute for Phase 1 of the 31B Basic Military Police Course. The 17 students in the class focused on garrison law and order during the two-week course, learning patrolling techniques, unarmed self-defense and crime scene management, among other assorted military police skills.
“The goal of Phase 1 is for them to learn what the job of an MP is in a garrison environment,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Sammy Jones, course manager for the MP course.
An added bonus for the students of this course, was a police dog demonstration conducted by Staff Sgt. John Tanner, an instructor for the MP course who works with a six-year-old bloodhound named Hannah at the Halifax Sheriff’s Office on the civilian side. Tanner was able to coordinate with his civilian employer to bring in his tracking dog, giving the students a chance to see first-hand the benefits of working with K-9s in military and police fields.
Tanner provided the students with an overview of Hannah’s abilities, as well as the abilities of other police dogs and answered students’ questions about what it’s like to have a dog as a partner. Tanner and Hannah also gave the students a demonstration of her skills, tracking one of the other MP instructors through RTI facilities.
“The way a bloodhound is trained to track, is it actually tracks the cells that come off your body,” Tanner said. “She picks up on those fumes, because as those cells degenerate and break down, they put off a gas and as that gas comes out, that’s what she’s smelling.”
Tanner explained that the bloodhound tracking dogs can actually track significantly longer after a track has been laid than a patrol dog, due to the unique way in which they track. He said Hannah is utilized often in his area, often to track children or elderly citizens who have gotten lost.
“The dog is probably one of the best resources available for law enforcement,” Jones said. “They’re a very useful tool for everything we do when it comes to force protection and patrolling.”
The skills and experience, both from military and civilian experience, brought by the MP course instructors at the Virginia Guard’s RTI, named an Institute of Excellence last year by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, help to enhance the learning experience of each student who passes through the course.
“All my instructors are handpicked based off what is they bring to the table,” explained Jones. “I have nine instructors, and collectively we have over 96 years of civilian law enforcement experience and over 12 deployments. I have instructors with state and local law enforcement experience, forensics, the SWAT team, who are firearms instructors and gang specialists – we’ve got a little bit of everything here and so the students get the subject matter expert to teach it.”
The students in the course came from all over to the attend the MP course in Virginia, including from California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Nevada and Virginia. During Phase 1, the students also experienced getting tazed, and sprayed with oleoresin capsicum, or OC, spray.
For Phase 2, the students primarily focus on military police skills in a tactical environment, covering weapons familiarization, MP warrior tasks and drills and convoy security.