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NEWS | Sept. 19, 2012

Maine Army National Guard MPs train for Afghan duties

By Sgt. Jonathan Monfiletto New York Army National Guard

CAMP McGREGOR, N.M. - The 488th Military Police Company of the Maine Army National Guard is here training with Division West's 5th Armored Brigade for its first deployment in the unit's current form, as Soldiers prepare to head to Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Derek Wilcox, the unit's guard force commander, said this will be the first time the company has been shipped out since it began flying its own flag about four years ago.

The 488th was previously part of the Maine Army National Guard's 169th Military Police Company, Wilcox said. The 169th last deployed about five years ago.

"It's exciting," Wilcox said of the unit's first tour of duty. "The unit has a really good mix of experience and young, new Soldiers. It's nice to see the level of mentorship going on."

One of those young, new Soldiers is Spc. Clay Landry, who said the tour of duty in Afghanistan will be his first deployment.

"I'm excited," Landry said. "I can't wait."

The unit will support detainee operations in Afghanistan, Wilcox said. "It could be anything in support of the facility."

During their deployment, Wilcox said, it will be his role as guard force commander to conduct daily briefings on the safety, rules and intelligence at the facility, while conducting hourly checks to ensure the safety of both the Soldiers and the detainees.

While the company is at Camp McGregor for the next several weeks, Wilcox said, the Soldiers are scheduled to train in detainee operations, entry control points, force protection and fundamentals of patrolling, as well as weapons.

The unit's preparation for the deployment began three months ago, though, Wilcox said, when the Soldiers spent about six weeks practicing basic warrior tasks and battle drills at their home station in Maine.

"I think it's a good refresher," Wilcox said of the unit's training, both at home and in New Mexico, which includes hands-on training the Soldiers do not typically get. "It's good to get this refresher training."

Landry agreed that the training is good, noting he and his fellow Soldiers get to switch roles during each exercise so they know as much as possible about their mission.

For example, Landry pointed out, Soldiers performing a detainee operations exercise take turns acting as detainees and guards in a mock detention facility, while others work on the facility's quick reaction force.

"How the Army does it, I think it's great," Landry said.

Besides the company's military training, individual Soldiers also have experience of their own from previous deployments, as well as their civilian jobs.

"There are a good number of civilian law enforcement and civilian corrections officers," Wilcox said. "Being an MP unit, people who do that in the civilian world are drawn to the unit. It brings an added level of experience to the unit."