Some of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s top cops are heading to Afghanistan where they’ll be in charge of all detainees in U.S. custody.
The 120 soldiers in the 42nd Military Police Brigade’s headquarters company mainly will manage a large prison at Bagram Air Field north of Kabul for the next nine months. Several companies of U.S. military police already stationed there are expected to report to them.
Leaders in the headquarters company wouldn’t say how many detainees are in the prison, but reports place the number around 2,000. The American Civil Liberties Union in January 2010 obtained records that showed at least 645 detainees in the prison as of September 2009. The ACLU is pressing for more information about the detainees, such as their home countries.
Military Police Brigade Commander Col. Robert Taradash said his soldiers will be taking the lead on detainee operations at an important moment as U.S. forces proceed with plans to reduce their footprint in Afghanistan. The soldiers will be partnered with an Afghan military police brigade.
“All together we’re going to help further a cause,” he said. “That’s a great challenge.”
The 42nd Military Police Brigade has deployed to Iraq twice and its subordinate units have served overseas in smaller numbers since 2004. When it’s on home soil, the brigade leads emergency services planning at Lewis-McChord and manages the military prison on the base.
Command Sgt. Maj. Dawn Rippelmeyer, the brigade’s top noncommissioned officer, said military police at Bagram will be expected to uphold a professional demeanor no matter what they see. She said detainees see their guards every day, and are known to try to rile up the police.
Rippelmeyer served at Bagram in 2005 and she has deployed to Iraq.
“It can be a little like Groundhog Day for” soldiers, she said, referring to the nature of working in a foreign prison day in and day out.
“Our soldiers have to always be professional, apply standards and realize they have processes to follow,” she said.
The headquarters company cased its flag at a ceremony today. It’s expected to deploy in the next few weeks.
Lewis-McChord now has at 4,700 soldiers and 260 airmen deployed in Afghanistan with the bulk of the local soldiers serving in Zabul and Kandahar provinces with the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.