PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (10/23/2012) – U.S. Army
Cpl. Margie Jones and U.S. Army Spc. Judy Sanchez, both
military police officers attached to the 539th Military
Police Detachment, out of Buckeye, Ariz., currently patrol
sector 4 on Bagram Air Field.
U.S. Army Cpl. Margie Jones (left) from Buckeye, Ariz., and U.S. Army Spc. Judy Sanchez (right) from Phoenix, Ariz., watch bomb dogs train with their handlers on Bagram Air Field, Sept. 3, 2012. Jones and Sanchez are both military police officers with the 539th Military Police Detachment out of Buckeye, Ariz., and are deployed in support of a law and order mission on Bagram Air Field. Photo by Army Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake
Being a military police
officer on Bagram Air Field can be a thankless job.
“People don't like to see us coming until they actually need
us,” said Jones.
Their area of responsibility
consists of the north end of the main road to the far
northeast corner of the airfield. This includes the long
expanse of wire that separates the north end of the airfield
from the nearby village, otherwise known as “Sniper Alley.”
Patrol districts are switched regularly so everyone is
familiar with each area.
The 539th MPs are here
primarily as a law and order unit, which means their mission
is to patrol the interior of the base. The Air Force
security forces manage the entry control points and external
“We do the same thing we do back at home,”
said U.S. Army Sgt. Antwon Yourse, the night shift desk
sergeant, attached to the 539th MPD. “We have our patrol districts
and each unit is responsible for the calls in their assigned
A typical day for Sanchez and
Jones starts out with weapons issue and the morning
briefing. Any events that happened on the previous night's
shift are discussed and the day's schedule is laid out.
They then head to their assigned vehicle and perform
preventive maintenance checks and services on their vehicle
to ensure everything is working properly.
Sanchez usually work together if there is an odd number of
soldiers on a particular shift.
“Depending on how
many people we have on shift, we either ride solo or
tandem,” Sanchez said.
Jones and Sanchez deal with
myriad situations on a daily basis. Recently, they found a
marijuana grow operation. Alcohol is not much of an issue on
the military side, but they have had to deal with
intoxicated contractors in the past. Recently, a contractor
got violent after consuming too much alcohol and after
repeated commands to surrender, had to be tazered by the
“One of the more common incidents we
respond to are negligent discharges,” said Sanchez. “We get
one about once every couple days here on BAF.”
also receive a lot of calls regarding suspicious packages
including trash bags on the side of the road, abandoned
backpacks and even a Tupperware container.
medical emergencies occur, we respond to provide security
for the emergency medical technicians and fire-fighters,”
said Sanchez. “We've actually had incidents where the EMTs
have gotten assaulted by witnesses.”
On a typical
patrol, the MPs drive their sector to look for suspicious
activity and conduct presence patrols in public areas like
the hospital and bazaar. This let's the residents on Bagram
know the MPs are on duty and acts as a deterant for
One of the primary tasks the
539th MPs perform is parking and traffic enforcement.
“I don't like to give tickets, unless I really think the
person deserves it,” said Jones. “When I find cars parked in
front of the passenger terminal unattended or in front of
water reservoirs, I usually give them a ticket.”
once pulled over a bus that was going 60 [kilometers per
hour in a 25kph zone],” Sanchez added. “They passed a runner
without moving over. I definitely gave them a ticket.”
In dealing with the general public on BAF, Jones and
Sanchez understand that building a rapport with the
community is crucial to mission success. As part of their
regular patrol duties, they like to take the time to talk to
local shop owners and military personnel.
“We try to
give everyone, especially the local nationals, the time of
day, which they appreciate,” Jones said.
Occasionally, Jones and Sanchez encounter an individual who,
because of rank or position, thinks they can get away with
violating base policy.
“We have to walk the fine line
between asserting our authority but still respecting rank,”
Jones said she responded to a traffic
accident not long ago where a local national crashed into a
concrete barrier. The driver was going to get his license
revoked and kicked off the base, but Jones defended the LN
and he was allowed to keep his privileges.
“I have a
passion for people,” she added. “I like to give everyone the
benefit of the doubt.”
Sanchez, Jones and their
fellow MPs pull 12-13 hour shifts with a day off a week. The
days are long, especially when they recently had to provide
security for Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III's
visit to Bagram Air Field.
As the day draws to a
close, the MPs trickle in one and two at a time, turn in
their gear, check their vehicles and prepare to brief the
night shift. In 12 hours, Jones and Sanchez will be on
patrol again, and with each new day comes new challenges.
“I love this job,” Jones said. “You never know what the
day will bring.
By Army Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake
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