The U.S. Army National Guard supports its state in a variety of roles. Recently, California's 870th Military Police Company spent its annual training at FEMA's Center for Domestic Preparedness (CDP), located in Anniston, Ala. The company traveled with 93 soldiers and spent two weeks attending more than six courses focusing on effective use of law enforcement tactics in a contaminated crime scene and response actions following a terrorist attack.
"Our company is different from other companies," said 1st Sgt. Brock Kelly, Company First Sergeant. "We are the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) for Northern California; if anything happens, our company is the first [unit] to get called from the state."
The company also received advanced training employing crowd control measures, understanding protester tactics, incident management, and operating inside an area contaminated with chemical and biological hazards.
"We are prepared to deploy in support of state and local law enforcement," said 1st Lt. Keith Frederickson, one of the company's platoon leaders and a deputy sheriff with the Alameda Sheriff's Office. "We serve as a force multiplier during a natural disaster or civil unrest. We have experienced protest from the [so called] Occupy Movement and, most recently, from the Zimmerman trial. This training makes us all more proficient MP soldier[s] and helps us communicate more effectively with local law enforcement."
"I feel more confident going shoulder-to-shoulder in support of civilian law enforcement," said Spc. Gabriela Toruno, a Military Police soldier and juvenile probation officer when not in military uniform. "I know I can be effective if the QRF is deployed. Before, most of us would simply do what we were told; now the learning curve is lessened and I know what to do without specific guidance [from local or state law enforcement.] The hands-on training gave us the confidence we need and I feel ready."
Among its role as a combat force, the 870th is charged with providing disaster relief in the event of earthquakes, fires, floods, and also respond to terrorist events and civil unrest. The unit is always prepared for response to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear event (CBRN). While at the CDP, the soldiers had the opportunity to train at the Chemical, Ordnance, Biological, and Radiological (COBRA) Training Facility. The COBRA offers the only program in the nation featuring emergency response training exercises using nerve agents and biological materials.
"The CBRN training can't be forgotten—if there were a major hazardous materials incident I know the National Guard would be called out," said Frederickson. "The CBRN training here is extensive and as military policemen we would be expected to wear protective equipment and enter a contaminated area to triage survivors, collect evidence, and maintain security of contaminated crime scenes."
"This is non-traditional annual training for any Guard member," said Kelly. "We plan to include this training for more of our companies. The soldiers are more confident and we learned that our operating procedures need to mirror the local law enforcement we will support. We also plan to integrate local law enforcement into our training and gain a better understanding of each other's capabilities."
The soldiers of the 870th gained valuable knowledge and confidence during CDP training. As military police they return home better prepared to provide support as required by their state. The CDP plays a leading role in preparing state, local, and tribal responders to prepare for and respond to manmade events or major accidents involving hazardous or toxic materials, to include mass casualties.
Under Title 32 (state support) mission, National Guard soldiers and airmen are eligible to attend fully funded training at the CDP. Department of Homeland Security funds the training, the students' travel, lodging and meals. To learn more about the Center for Domestic Preparedness, visit http://cdp.dhs.gov or call 866-213-9553.