Florida Military Police Unit to Return from Deployment

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CAMP ATTERBURY, Ind. – The securing of the Iraqi population through local law enforcement agencies continues its upward momentum following a 13-month deployment of the 320th Military Police Company. The U.S. Army Reserve unit, headquartered in Tampa, Fla., is scheduled to return home this week after final out-processing procedures here today.

The unit, which deployed 171 Soldiers from Florida, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee, Georgia and Puerto Rico, served as the police transition team for the Saladin Province of Iraq. Their mission was to train and validate local Iraqi police forces in preparation for this year’s transition of power as mandated by the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement. The 320th MP Executive Officer, 1st Lt. Suzanne Russell, said during their deployment, unit members oversaw the validation of more than 2,000 Iraqi police officers throughout the area’s nine police districts.

A young Iraqi girl teaches U.S. Army 1st Lt. German Gonzalez, 320th Military Police Company, how to play a game as his unit distributes stuffed animals to Tikrit Orphanage children.
A young Iraqi girl teaches U.S. Army 1st Lt. German Gonzalez, 320th Military Police Company, how to play a game as members of his unit distribute stuffed animals to the children of the Tikrit Orphanage in Tikrit, Iraq, last September. Photo by Staff Sgt. Micky Bazaldua

“Our job was to provide mentorship and training to more than 30 police stations throughout the province,” Russell said. “We conducted weapons training, dismounted patrols and community relations missions, which helped give the locals an understanding of what the IPs did [for the local population].”

1st Lt. Michael Pangia, the 320th MP Commander, said at first, some of the local police forces still harbored the corrupt mentality from Saddam Hussein’s previous reign. However, Soldiers from the 320th used their civilian law enforcement experience to quickly solve that issue.

“Our success wasn’t measured through validating their training, but by leaving the IPs more competent, credible, professional and embraced by their communities,” Pangia said. “It was like comparing day versus night when we first got there. Now, [the police forces] are following their own laws and they were successful in providing 100 percent security measures during last year’s provincial elections.”

U.S. Army Spc. Daniel Hernandez from the 320th Military Police Company, 728th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, pulls security during the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division band performance, Operation Iron Tuba, in Balad, Iraq
U.S. Army Spc. Daniel Hernandez from the 320th Military Police Company, 728th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, pulls security during the U.S. Army’s 1st Armored Division band performance, Operation Iron Tuba, in Balad, Iraq, last November. Photo by Sgt. Kani Ronningen

In addition to providing mentorship and training to the local police forces, the unit also “adopted” an orphanage near Tikrit by donating care packages from home as well as toys, hygiene products and school supplies to more than 42 children. 1st Sgt. Marty Faulkner of the 320th MP said the local IP’s ability to function independently without direct Coalition Forces oversight was attributed to the 320th’s prior law enforcement experience.

“Their knowledge provided an extreme advantage,” Faulkner said. “It gave them enough insight so when they hit the ground, they knew what to do immediately, whereas a standard Soldier wouldn’t know where to begin.”

Another victory for the unit was the 22 reenlistments and 11 voluntary extensions to stay and continue the work provided by the 320th. Now back home, the executive officer said that many members that were from the other states have requested to stay with the Florida reserve unit. Faulkner said that the strength and cohesion of the unit parallels a motto he repeated to his troops constantly during the deployment.

“Finish strong and with honor,” he said.

By Sgt. Robert G. Cooper III