FORT CAMPBELL, KY – Two lines of cars trying to enter Fort
Campbell through Gate 4, one of the busiest of the installation's 10
access control points, stretch nearly back to Fort Campbell
Boulevard. Three soldiers stop cars at the gate. Judging by outward
appearances, including the fluorescent yellow vest, large black
belts and pistols, the only thing different about these soldiers
from the military police soldiers who normally staff the ACP is
their patch. They all wear the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
eagle patch on their left shoulder.
The vehicles are a
constant stream and the soldiers briefly stop each vehicle. The
first thing the soldiers do is give them a respectful greeting,
usually accompanied by a smile. They take the drivers'
identification, inspect it and send the vehicles on their way with
some kind words, like “have a great day.”
Sgt. Andre Garrett, a light wheel
mechanic from Troop E, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st
Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault),
checks identifications on Dec. 12, 2013 at Fort Campbell's main
gate. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Leejay Lockhart, 101st Sustainment
Brigade Public Affairs)
Usually the vehicles only stop for a handful of seconds.
Sometimes when the soldiers have the drivers open their
trunks, it takes a couple of minutes. Occasionally, the
soldiers turn a vehicle away for lack of identification.
Everything happens quite efficiently, and traffic flows
through the gate without any unnecessary delay.
These soldiers handle the responsibility of being Fort
Campbell's first line of protection like old pros. Yet,
instead of being members of the military police with years
of experience on the gates, they are part of a group of 72
soldiers from the division trained in October to augment
Fort Campbell's military police at the gates.
Spc. Bryan Clark, an infantryman from 1st Battalion,
187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne
Division, and one of the gate guards, says his job on the
gate is “keeping the bad guys out” and protecting the
installation. When his unit asked for soldiers for the
mission, he volunteered.
With an average of nearly
40,000 vehicles entering the post each day, the soldiers on
the gates face an almost endless flow of traffic to check.
Also, the gates are open every day, with three gates being
open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, including
holidays. Soldiers on the gates must stop every vehicle and
check every ID to help keep Fort Campbell safe.
Jon. S. Donaldson, the commander of the 551st Military
Police Company, 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st
Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, said that
after two platoons from his company deployed in July and
with more soldiers from the battalion preparing to deploy,
the battalion identified a shortage of personnel to meet all
of its missions.
Despite the deployments, the
installation didn't plan to shut down gates, so without more
personnel, it would negatively impact the battalion. The
unit requested help from the division to avoid that, and in
late September, the division approved soldiers to assist the
MPs as borrowed military manpower for six months.
"Without the help from the division soldier, without their
support we would of had to cut a lot of events within our
own battalion,” said Donaldson. “Like Air Assault School,
NCOES (Noncommissioned Officer Education System), even
leave. It would be a big boulder in our ruck sacks."
The 551st MP Company started a two-week training program in
October to teach and certify the division soldiers on skills
they would need for access control operations. Donaldson
said after the first two weeks of training, the soldiers
received on-the-job training working beside MPs at the
gates, along with advanced scenarios based training at gates
2 and 5. In November, the division soldiers took over the
bulk of the ACP mission and started to excel.
what I was most impressed by was their ability to adapt, to
bring disciplined initiative and apply (it) to the ACP
operation, and they succeeded,” said Donaldson. “They
succeeded way beyond my standards and the standards of those
Clark, a native of Fulton, Ill., said the
training process taught him everything he needed to perform
his new duties.
Clark went on to say that he just
follows the procedure he learned from training and
approaches every car the same. He starts by looking at the
driver. Then he looks at the car trying to see if he notices
anything out of place on the car's exterior. Then he checks
to see if he can see anything in visible in the car that
shouldn't be there.
Sgt. Andre Garrett, a light wheel
mechanic from Troop E, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment,
101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, and
one of the gate guards said that the gate guard must show
everybody respect. However, he said that staying focused is
how soldiers will succeed in the mission. He said he stays
focused by pushing everything else to the side except for
the people coming through the gates.
“I make sure
that all the people coming on post is primary,” said Garret,
a native of Talladega, Ala. “... you just got to be focused on
what you got to do and what's your goals.”
is to inspect every car the same, whether it's the first car
on their shift or the last one, and not to get distracted or
Donaldson added, “That's how we achieve
security at the perimeter of the installation; Is through
those disciplined diligent checks and service that our
Garrett and Clark said they both
enjoyed working at the gates.
"One thing that really
makes the night for me is when I see the little kids will
come up and the parents will roll down the window and the
kid will like salute me or wave at me,” said Clark. “That
makes my day.”
The division soldiers have not only
taken over as ACP but many of the noncommissioned officers
serve as sergeants of the guards and help manage these
soldiers. They provide backup and oversight.
the division soldiers have helped the MPs, the 551st MP
Company is ensuring it takes care of these soldiers.
“Going forward our future operations is we're focusing on
how do we make these soldiers better, Air Assault being one
of our top goals,” said Donaldson. “We want to prepare them
in their down time and then send them and give them the
opportunity to earn their Air Assault wings.”
the company's goal is to make sure that the 72 soldiers
assigned to the 551st MP Company have the same stats for
schools, awards, and other metrics as all of the other
soldiers in the company.
Garrett and Clark both said
they felt like the all of the soldiers have bonded.
“All of the different brigades and the actual MPs, and we
all work together,” said Garrett.
He said they share
their experiences and always help each other out. He summed
up the way the MPs have treated him since the detail began
with one word – great.
The soldiers individual
efforts along with the team work has allowed the mission to
succeed and because of its success a different group of
soldiers will join with the MPs in spring for the start of a
new six month ACP mission.
“I'm actually really glad
I got picked for this,” said Clark. “I would like to stay on
if I could.”
By U.S. Army Sgt. Leejay Lockhart
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