MPs trade tropical paradise for barren-swept lava fields at PTA for company-level training
Story and Photos by
Spc. Marcus Fichtl
8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii — They slept in-between volcanoes, rode on lava-scorched plateaus, chewed volcanic dust and trained.
The 150 Soldiers of the 57th Military Police Company, 728th MP Battalion, 8th MP Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, traded in their patrol cars and night sticks for M4 rifles and humvees, and then island hopped from the friendly confines of Schofield Barracks to the barren wind-swept lava fields, here, Feb. 6-28.
“We’re here to increase our squad-based capabilities based on the current MP mission set in Afghanistan,” said Capt. Lee Monzon, commander, 57th MP Co.
According to Monzon, there’s no better environment to replicate a deployment.
The training area is located more than a mile up, on a barren plateau, with swirling red dirt and volcanic dust, which makes the place feel more like training on Mars than in Hawaii.
However, the Soldiers battled the cold, the wind and the dust without a complaint. They brushed up on basic warrior tasks and familiarized themselves with weapons from AT4 rocket launchers to M240B machine guns.
After completing the ranges, the unit conducted scenario-based squad lane training, the same type of scenarios that a deployed MP may encounter.
With two-thirds of the Soldiers in the company new to the unit, and with a garrison mission focused on policing the community, some expected the squads would fall on their face, struggle to survive and fail.
However, for Staff Sgt. Steven Mariani, squad leader, 57th MP Co., the training was his squad’s time to shine.
“My squad just clicked,” Mariani emphasized.
As the squad overcame obstacles and accomplished its mission, Soldiers like Pvt. Brittany Barris, a gunner in Mariani’s squad, created success from the ground up.
“Barris was brand new out of basic training; she was quiet. But when she got out here, she burst out of her shell, qualified expert on the 50 .cal, never complained and excelled as Soldier,” Mariani said.
As the squad hustled through mock key leadership engagements, it manned checkpoints and rescued hostages.
All the scenarios shared one important skill set: interpersonal skills.
While many see MPs as just another form of infantry, MPs open more doors with their tongue than they do with feet. They take their ability to police the community in garrison to act as mini-ambassadors in combat.
“Every word you say can make it easier for everyone, or worse; it can mess things up for everyone,” Mariani said. “If you don’t have interpersonal skills, you don’t have patience and you won’t be able to take in the big picture.”
So, what is the big picture for the 57th MP Co.?
“We allowed these squads to not only work as individual squads, but showed how they fit into the company, and got our new Soldiers integrated into the unit,” Monzon said, adding, “(It’s) something they accomplished with their motivation, morale and training.”