It may be tempting to think of amphibious operations as nothing more than land-based operations that are initiated from the sea. This, however, would both grossly underestimate the complexity inherent to amphibious operations and fail entirely to acknowledge that they are conducted across both land and sea. As the Military Police Liaison Officer (MPLO) and Military Police (MP) Platoon Commander for Battlegroup (BG) RAM during the recent Integrated Sea Land Series (ISLS), which included Exercise Hamel 18 (H18), I was well positioned to learn some lessons about this complexity first hand. What follows is a (very) brief synopsis of three of those lessons.
Building relationships is crucial, but solid foundations require honest self-appraisal and awareness.
While significant inroads towards improving the reputation of MPs have been (and continue to be) made, it must be acknowledged that – at least in certain circles – the prospect of having MPs attached to your call sign is often greeted with something less than a surfeit of enthusiasm. Failure to acknowledge this reputation would make dealing with the inevitable (good-natured) banter difficult and probably indicate a significant break with reality; whereas getting on the front foot and acknowledging with a broad grin that negative perceptions of MPs still remain, opens the door to then explain what MPs can do to diminish time on target, increase speed of transition, provide specialist law enforcement advice and generally work to add value to combat operations.
You can’t take it with you (and if you can, you’ll have to carry it).
One of the first lessons learned about amphibious operations (long before getting anywhere near a ship) was that you will never be able to take with you everything you want or think you might need – from personnel and equipment, down to the items in your cabin bag. After the BG RAM S4 (logistics) applied a reality filter and cut a swathe through our planned numbers for ISLS 18, we were reduced to one MPLO and driver, one section of general duties (GD) MPs, a military police dog (MPD) pair, two MP specialist dog handlers, and… a single, solitary four-seater G-wagon 6×6. The consequence of this was that any mounted movement would see us partially reliant on the spare capacity of the units we were supporting. It also forced us to re-assess and adjust how we would provide developing MP capabilities such as tactical forensics and support to integrated capabilities like Forward Exploitation Teams (FEXT) that may comprise intelligence personnel, engineers and MPs from the dismounted role; not to mention reinforcing the undeniable importance of maintaining a high level of pack fitness.
Small team integration and cohesion is key.
Working in small teams is not a new concept for MP soldiers as they will often work in capability bricks of four personnel – particularly when operating as an Evidence Collection and Recovery Team (ECRT) or when supporting a FEXT. For significant parts of the ISLS, however, MP elements supporting BG RAM were required to integrate individuals or pairs into sections or small teams of infantry and engineers. This was to provide niche MP capability and specialist law enforcement advice where it could be best employed. Taking into consideration the aforementioned reputation issues MPs are sometimes burdened with, it is a credit to the character and affability of the soldiers that they were able to overcome ingrained pre-conceptions and contribute strongly to the teams they supported. Of course, credit is also due to the members of BG RAM who were highly professional and able to look beyond any such pre-conceptions they may have held. The integration at soldier level proved highly successful, generating improved understanding of mutual capabilities, future opportunities for integrated training, and generally increased levels of goodwill between call signs.
Amphibious training activities such as the ISLS provide MPs with an excellent opportunity to break down institutionalised stereotypes and demonstrate existing and developing capabilities. Just remember to bring a sense of humour, flexible thinking, determination to contribute to mission success and not too much extraneous kit – like the radar gun and ticket book.
About the author: Paul Davy started his military career as an infantryman in the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, with whom he deployed to East Timor in 2000. He studied Portuguese at the Defence Force School of Languages in 2003 and left the Army in 2005 to take an extended civilian holiday. Before returning to military service in 2015, Paul travelled widely and completed a Bachelor’s degree in Languages and Linguistics as well as a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education. He is currently a platoon commander in D Company, 1st Military Police Battalion.