In the News

The partnership takes center stage: Massachusetts Guardsmen train with Canadian Forces

By Staff Sgt. Kenneth Upsall | 362nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment | March 06, 2016

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DEVINS, Mass. -- In a crisis, military police may be called upon to exercise their skills as protectors of the people and enforcers of the law. During these crisis situations local and federal law enforcement agencies both at home and in deployed environments may need more manpower, a ready and trained force at their side to restore order. Natural disasters, a terrorist attack, or periods of excessive civil unrest are times when local assets may not be enough. At times like these the members of the Massachusetts National Guard and the Canadian 3rd Military Police Regiment have the training necessary to assist their communities.

There is a long-standing relationship between Halifax, Nova Scotia and Boston, Massachusetts, celebrated annually when the city of Halifax sends a Christmas tree to Boston for display on Boston Common.

In 2015, planning began to build a deeper expression of that special relationship. Canadian Forces Military Police units in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick began partnering with the Massachusetts National Guard to develop a professional training and operational relationship that allows these multinational Soldiers to train together.

Military Police units from the Massachusetts Army and Air National Guard came together with their peers from the Canadian 3 Military Police Regiment to learn how to react and operate in these situations at Fort Devens and New England Studios in Devens, Massachusetts, March 4-6.

The partnership allows both forces the opportunity “to work closely with international peers, exercise battalion and regimental staffs on the challenges associated with cross-border movements, and build upon the partnership” in case cross-border emergency assistance is needed, said Maj. Bryan Pillai, executive officer for the Massachusetts National Guard’s 211th Military Police Battalion. “The intent of this partnership is to strengthen ties between key North American allies and essential Unified Action Partners” in order to “provide better and more varied training for both Canadian and U.S. Military Police personnel,” said Pillai.

Creating and nurturing a strong international relationship takes a lot of work and involves a lot of moving parts, but the end result is worth all that work said Maj. Lloyd Jackson, officer commanding, 30 Military Police Company, 3rd MP, “Everyone within the system has been supportive and has tried to make it work for us,” said Jackson.

Once the Canadians arrived in Massachusetts they quickly immersed themselves in the civil disturbance training provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“We’re a team of contractors for the Department of Homeland Security and we go all over the country training law enforcement, National Guard, federal agencies and regular Army in crowd management, civil disturbance tactics and command so all agencies across the country have the same foundation of training in civil disturbance events” said Frank Flynn, one of the DHS instructors and a K-9 Supervisor for the Boston Police Department.

According to Flynn the DHS instructors have worked with Canadians in the past and have greatly enjoyed the experience. There are instructors on other teams from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and consultants from Canadian law enforcement agencies have provided input on the training in order to utilize best practices from a wide array of sources.

“Bringing in the Canadians allows us to work with one of our NATO partners,” said Capt. Justin Culverwell, plans officer for the 211th. According to Culverwell building the relationship between Canadians and Massachusetts Soldiers and Airmen is an important part of the experience so the two forces understand each other’s training, “it’s all about being able to understand how other organizations operate and insure all our organizations can integrate.”

The MPs are training in Field Force Operations, specifically focusing on civil disturbance and civil disobedience crowd control tactics. Culverwell said the training is designed to “better prepare our soldiers as well as better deploy them” into situations where civil disobedience and civil disorder occur.

Culverwell defined civil disturbance as, “any time where civil control is lost, or may be lost” resulting in a situation which is out of control or may result in civil unrest.

The 211th has had experience in similar situations, having been called upon to assist in disaster response efforts including Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The first portion of the training was conducted in classrooms at Fort Devens and focused on tactics as well as command and control in the field. This portion, known as Field Force Operations, is a nationally certified class and allows the 211th to integrate with agencies across the U.S. if called into action.

The practical exercises were held nearby at New England Studios in Devens, a large multi-sound stage building typically used in movie production. The space is cavernous, 150 feet by 120 feet with nearly 50-foot ceilings. The rooms have the feeling of soundproof warehouse, eerily quiet to the point that not even the buzzing of overhead lights can be heard before the soldiers entered for training.

The DHS instructors quickly formed up the troops, consisting of elements from the 211th and the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd and 104th Security Forces Squadrons, which collectively comprise the commonwealth's National Guard Reaction Force, and 3rd MP. The multi-national, multi-service force swiftly began execution of several tactics taught in the classroom.

“It’s training we don’t get back home,” said Cpl. Colleen Purdy, second in command of the 3rd MP element from Moncton, New Brunswick.

The training was a great way to build relationships and learn tactics not normally used by the Canadian Forces. The Canadians focus more on urban operations associated with military police missions, not crowd control, she said.

“It’s fortunate we get to come here and train with the Americans and work with them,” said Purdy. She believes the partnership is growing as the Americans and Canadians exchange training and understanding of their operations and drills. Purdy said working as a group, having good leadership, command and communication brings everything together for her.

“I’m a huge fan of not only cross-trade training, but international training. Being able to train with other forces in the event we may have to work with them is always beneficial,” said Master Cpl. Joseph Morris, a military policeman from Halifax. The training he has done with the 211th has been seamless. “When we come together because the tactics are so similar, because everything works together so well, everything just meshes and we are able to accomplish the mission every time.”

“This training is very good for my guys,” said Jackson, “all my soldiers are having a great time, they are learning a great deal and making great friendships.”

The 211th and 3rd MP have plans to continue their joint training in the future. With elements from both units going across their shared national border for annual and weekend training on many skills necessary to be a military policeman this young partnership seems destined to grow and create not only friendships, but an understanding between cultures that will last far into the future.