Military Police Protect Outpost in Uzbekistan

By Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol, USAF

Army Sgt. Alex Martinez, 13th Military Police Detachment, sets in position with a machine gun during a training scenario at Karshi-Khanabad Air Base, Uzbekistan.

Photo by Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol, USAF / DoD Photo

KARSHI-KHANABAD AIR BASE, (USAF) Uzbekistan — Covering the bicep on their left arm is an arm brassard emblazoned with two letters: MP. In the 13th Military Police Detachment here, more than 50 people patrol the base’s perimeter areas, guard entry control points and ensure deployed personnel obey the law.

For most of the MPs, each shift runs 12 hours or longer, depending on the events of the day, said Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Van Roekel, squad leader. Their shift coverage is “24/7/365,” he said, meaning they are always on the job. Each shift change begins with guard-mount, where MPs are briefed on everything from challenge passwords for the day to security updates, said Van Roekel.

“It’s a time-honored tradition that goes back many, many years for military police,” said Van Roekel of challenge passwords, who has been an MP for nine years. During guard-mount, each MP who goes on duty also participates in an in-ranks inspection, where the squad leader checks to ensure they are wearing the same uniform items, they have all of their equipment and they are ready for duty.

“My job also requires me to make sure they are issued the weapons and ammunition they need to do their job,” said Van Roekel. “They sign out their weapons and ammunition. Everything has to be accounted for.”

Though guard-mount may best represent how the 13th MP Detachment’s motto of “strength and honor” plays a role in every MP’s daily life, Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Queen, provost sergeant for the company, said his MPs take pride in what they do.

“Standards and discipline are apparent in everything we do,” said Queen. “Our basic mission of ensuring the safety of all personnel at ‘K-2’ means we have to be disciplined and ready all the time.”

Soldiers in the detachment come from all over, and are deployed for at least a year. Some hail from Fort Richardson and Fort Wainwright, Alaska, while others come from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, and the Florida National Guard. Some of the soldiers come in to support from forward operating bases in Afghanistan.

“We have quite a diverse group,” said Queen. “Many of us have been here since last April.”

Army Pfc. Kristofer Morash came up to support the 13th MP Company from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. While at Bagram, Morash worked law enforcement activities. “I’m extremely proud to be here,” said Morash. “We have a pretty important job here, keeping everyone on post safe. It’s our top priority.”

Keeping the post safe means staying ahead of the enemy threats. That’s where Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Gutierrez steps in as the company’s anti-terrorism and force protection noncommissioned officer in charge.

“The big thing is the evolving,” said Gutierrez. “No one threat ever stays the same, so it’s important to be aware of what’s happening. Complacency is a number one killer of soldiers. So a heightened sense of urgency … is crucial. Our NCOs here, though, do a great job to keep all our MPs ready, and that in turn makes us a better prepared force.”

The MP detachment has a good working relationship with security members from other services. On the air base, Air Force security forces work flight line security, so the MPs often coordinate protection areas with the Air Force security through the base defense operations center. And within the detachment are two military working dog handlers from the Navy: Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Yourg and Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Thomas.

“We all wear the same uniform and fight on the same side,” said Queen. “We all work together to meet the missions we have to do and meet our top priority – protecting the people and resources of (K-2).”

Whether it means doing customs for redeploying personnel, cruising on patrol by car or on foot, or ensuring the people and vehicles coming through the main gate are free of items that could cause harm, the MPs of K-2 will continue to do their job to the best of their ability, said military policeman Army Sgt. Patrick Conesa.

“It’s an important role we play over here,” said Conesa. “We keep K-2 safe and secure, and we have a lot of great people doing it.”

With “strength and honor,” they continue every day. And every day they have a reminder, in big letters set on their left shoulder – “MP” – that their mission is never done. It goes on “24/7/365.”