One of the last units in the U.S. Army to deploy for 15 months, the 527th Military Police Company headquartered in Hohenfels with platoons at Hohenfels, Grafenwöhr and Ansbach, finally made it home shortly after midnight June 28.
Company Commander Capt. Michael Capps said the unit went into their deployment expecting to spend most of their time mentoring the Afghan National Police. After their arrival in Afghanistan, they found out they would be mentoring the ANP as expected, but that would not be their only task.
“We like to joke that it took our company to do the work of a battalion,” Captain Capps said, because when they departed, their company of Soldiers was replaced by the entire 759th MP Battalion.
In addition to training Afghan forces, the company was also put in charge of an expanding forward operating base, was tasked to oversee the security and development of a 560-square-kilometer area, provided a squad of Soldiers who served as the personal security detachment for the International Security Assistance Force commander, supported maneuver battalions of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and more.
Despite the many tasks that spread the company across the N2KL region – Nangahar, Nuristan, Kunar and Laghman provinces – Captain Capps said they tried to focus on their original mission of mentoring ANP.
“The payoff was not necessarily in the training (the ANP) received, it was in the partnership we developed,” Captain Capps said. “When you teach someone something, yes, now they know that skill … but the partnership we both got out of it was even more valuable.”
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Glaviano, platoon sergeant of the 2nd platoon from Ansbach, said his platoon trained ANP and Afghan Border Police at Torkham Gate, one of the busiest points of entry between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Sergeant Glaviano said 2nd platoon and the Afghan forces would stay together for weeks at a time, conducting joint patrols in the area around Torkham Gate looking for people and things smuggled through the passes around the gate.
Sergeant Glaviano said, in general, the ANP and ABP were very cooperative and improved their capabilities in the time they were with 2nd platoon.
“At first they were doing their own thing, had no real standards. When we were leaving they were doing things themselves – we didn’t have to tell them to,” Sergeant Glaviano said.
Capt. Jacob Jordan, platoon leader of 3rd platoon from Grafenwöhr, said they started the ANP’s training with the most basic of tasks.
Captain Jordan said the MPs first made sure the ANP had their paperwork in order, had the correct equipment and knew how to use it, then worked on police skills such as patrolling, shooting, how to use handcuffs, unarmed self defense, traffic control and how to search buildings, among others.
“We wanted to create a baseline throughout the province. When we got done they all had uniforms and showed up to work on time. When we were done they could do everything we had taught them to do,” Captain Jordan said.
Though he admits that perhaps not all the units they mentored will maintain the skills they learned, Captain Jordan said many units were eager to learn and teach others.
He said it wasn’t always easy to devote as much time as they would have liked to ANP development.
“We had so much more to do than just that and we had to find time to do all of it,” he said, explaining that the platoon would often be called out to help other units in firefights. “Of course it would have been nice to have more people, but everyone is always going to say that. We did our best. I am extremely happy, the platoon did a great job. I had great NCOs who knew what they needed to do.”
Captain Jordan said that as busy as they were, he tried to provide his Soldiers with as much down time as possible.
Sergeant Glaviano also said relaxation time was critical to getting through the 15-month deployment.
“We would joke around when we had time to relax. When it was time to work we would work, but when we had time we would play volleyball, video games, things like that,” Sergeant Glaviano said.
Captain Jordan said though the unit knew ahead of time they would be gone for 15 months, which was helpful, it still was difficult, especially around the one year mark.
“After a year you’re like ‘Wow, we still have 90 days,” he said. “It’s tough, but you do what you have to do.”