|U.S. Military Police Ready for Prisoners
U.S. Military Police Prepare for Iraqi Prisoners by Using Mock Detention Center
ABC News 02/18/03
Original Link: http://abcnews.go.com/wire/World/ap20030217_1332.html
U.S. military police officers marched the "prisoners" in front of a mock detention center Monday, shouting at them in English and Arabic, ordering them to their knees to be searched before they get food, water and a place to sleep.
In the drill conducted by the 3rd Military Police Battalion, part of the 3rd Infantry Division, members of one platoon removed their combat gear to play the role of prisoners while another platoon practiced processing them. Then they switched places.
U.S. Army commanders, remembering the tens of thousands of Iraqis who surrendered during the 1991 Gulf War, are teaching Arabic phrases to military police and giving them other training to get them ready if President Bush orders troops into Iraq.
Bush has promised to use force if Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein fails to comply with U.N. resolutions ordering him to destroy prohibited weapons.
The military police, at least a third of them women, normally patrol Fort Stewart, Ga., like any city police force. But in the Kuwaiti desert, they prepared Monday for their wartime duties, which include processing prisoners of war and keeping civilians out of harm's way.
After each exercise, including how to use judo holds to search a belligerent prisoner, the younger soldiers peppered squad leaders with questions, most of them beginning, "What if ..."
"What if they run?" asked one young private. "What if they refuse to kneel down?" asked another. In each, the underlying question was clear: at what point do they fire their weapons.
If the prisoners flee, that constitutes an escape and lethal force can be used as a last resort, was one answer.
"We try to get them to ask all the questions now so if they get into a difficult situation they know the answer," Staff Sgt. Chemitra Simpson, a squad leader from Camden, S.C., said. "Most of them are straight out of high school, 18 or 19 years old, but they are ready."
Military police regularly travel to the front lines to pick up prisoners and guard the rear. Women in the unit must be ready for combat.
Simpson, 25, said gender is not an issue in her unit, which guarded the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 attacks and later served in Afghanistan.
"The women are just as tough as the men, some are even tougher," she said. "The women who come into the military police are already pretty tough and know what the job will be."
Master Sgt. Tony McGee of Florence, S.C., said he hoped just as many Iraqis surrender in any future conflict as did during the Gulf War, because that would mean victory just as quickly.
U.S. forces in 1991 were overwhelmed by 69,000 surrendering Iraqi soldiers in the first three days. Many of the prisoners were simply glad to be out of their fox holes where they had been bombed for weeks by U.S. planes and most cooperated fully, McGee said.
"They would put anything white on a stick to approach us," McGee, 34, said. "A lot of them were just looking for food and they knew we would take care of them."
Lt. Col. John Huey, the senior police officer for the division, said many hope that Iraqi units would simply "capitulate," the term for units that never attempt to fight in the first place.
There have been reports that U.S. Special Forces have been contacting Iraqi commanders inside the country, asking them to ignore orders to fight U.S. troops. If they agree, and remain in their barracks, then a U.S. unit would only monitor them at their base, not take them into custody. U.S. forces would also supply them with food and water.
But those Iraqi soldiers who challenge U.S. troops and later are captured or surrender could end up in Simpson's custody or McGee prisoner of war camp.
"It is our responsibility to take care of them and we plan to do that in an appropriate manner," Huey said.