Support: January 14, 2004


So many American Military Police are needed in Iraq that the MP companies that have long provided security for military bases are being replaced by civilians. For seven major bases, some 1,500 civilian security guards have been hired, at about $14 an hour to replace MPs who normally guard entrances and perform other security services. Many of those hired are former or retired MPs, and all have gone through a one month training course. The civilian companies receiving these contracts have long provided security guards for federal buildings, so the program is not that full of unknowns. 

The Army has also called some 10,000 National Guard troops to active duty to provide additional security for Air Force bases. This sort of thing is how military police were obtained until World War II, by just taking soldiers and appointing them as military police. Everyone learned on the job. During World War II this changed, as military police were established as a separate branch and formal training programs were established. One of the major needs for more military police was traffic control, as larger armies, now using thousands of trucks, required professionals to control the traffic and keep it going. Some 200,000 troops served as military police during World War II. 

After World War II, the military police took on new jobs. In Korea, and later Vietnam, military police were often called in to assist with keeping the peace among local civilians in war zones. Military police have never given up that peacekeeping job. Also during Vietnam, the military police took over the job of organizing security for supply convoys that traveled through hostile territory. After Vietnam, the army incorporated military police in its combat planning, making them, in effect, combat troops. In peacetime, MPs act mainly as police (at military bases) and provide security for the bases. In addition. they train at their wartime tasks of dealing with civilians and guarding convoys. This is why MPs already had some armored (M1114) hummers before the Iraq war and were prepared to deal with civilians and guarding convoys. But there is not an enormous need for MPs in peacetime, and most MPs (59 percent of the 37,500 available) are in reserve units. These reserve MPs are well prepared, because they spend nearly all their training time on wartime tasks. But they don't have the armored hummers, bullet proof flack jackets and additional weapons found to be necessary in a "hot" combat zone like Iraq. For the last six months, there has been a hasty scramble to get the needed equipment to the combat MPs. The army is now converting thousands of National Guard and reserve troops to MP units. Initially, mostly artillery units are being converted, because more accurate artillery and smart bombs has enabled fewer guns to do more work. Thus fewer artillery units are needed.

The principal unit for military police is the company, containing 160 troops and fifty vehicles (mostly hummers, including the M1114 armored hummers.) MP companies tend to acquire as additional weapons (machine-guns, sniper rifles, shotguns) and equipment (especially nigh vision gear) anyway they can (officially and unofficially.) This is an old tradition, as some World War II MP companies ended up with a few extra armored vehicles and mortars. Although women are not allowed to serve in combat units in the army, MP companies have contained female troops for decades. As the combat role of MPs increased, no one thought to remove the women. This was because the women were doing the job as well as the men. 




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