During the period 14-28 June 2018, Military Police (MP) from D Company (D Coy), 1st Military Police Battalion participated in Exercise Hamel 18. The exercise was led by the 7th Combat Brigade with D Coy providing close support to: Battlegroup (BG) WARHORSE, based on the 2nd/14th Light Horse Regiment (Queensland Mounted Infantry) and US Marines; BG RAM, based on the 8th/9th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment; BG WARATAH, based on the 2nd Division; and the Brigade Support Group, based on the 7th Combat Service Support Battalion.
The key focus for MPs was to provide close support to 7th Brigade and, within the town of Raspberry Creek, provide population support to the community through effective law enforcement operations in support of host nation (HN) authorities. During the exercise, MPs undertook a variety of tasks including patrols (both mounted and dismounted), key leadership engagement, liaison with local police, and Evidence Collection and Recovery Team (ECRT) activities in support of investigations.
Stage 1 – Insertion
MPs were tasked to occupy a position on the outskirts of the town. The original assessment was that the local population was supportive towards Australian Forces. However both during and after the clearance operations that lead up to the insertion of MPs, local popular support rapidly declined, especially when it came to law enforcement. While it was determined that the local community was frustrated and angry, their reaction did not appear to be of a hostile nature. In order to achieve successful engagement, MPs were required to quickly establish a rapport with the locals. This allowed the MPs to use low-level use of force methods, such as presence and verbal commands to achieve desired outcomes.
Stage 2 – Liaison with local police, non-government organisations and the local population
MPs conducted law enforcement tasks within their tactical area of responsibility (TAOR) by directly liaising with the HN police. The outcome saw the HN police force take the lead on matters concerning the local population and any crimes related to HN law. Indeed, during the early stages of the exercise MPs were unable to patrol through the township without the permission of HN authorities.
As the exercise progressed, MPs were able to gather evidence and information that, after careful consideration, was able to be shared with the HN police. This helped to develop an intelligence picture within the township and establish an understanding of local criminal and insurgent networks. MPs also worked hard to build positive relationships within the community and shape HN authorities and community leaders, thus paving the way for Australian forces to engage more closely with the local population.
Stage 3 – Joint patrols and community policing
Due to a strong intelligence picture through reconnaissance, surveillance and information provided by the locals, MPs were able to gain reliable information on high-profile members associated with criminal and insurgent groups. As a result of successful key leadership engagements, they were able to structure a process that allowed Australian forces to conduct patrols and investigations alongside the HN police. Sharing information with the local police force proved vital in building mutual trust and respect. This positive effect allowed MPs to offer greater assistance to the community and soften negative opinion. It also helped to reduce the rate of criminal activity within the TAOR.
Stage 4 – Support community police
Another way the MPs supported the local community was through assisting and providing further training to the HN police force. Partner capacity building enabled transition of responsibility to local law enforcement, which in turn improved the security situation and supported the restoration of stability within the HN. In order to achieve this outcome, MPs provided support to investigations and executed partnered missions that conducted targeted arrests enabled by the developing intelligence picture. The success of these operations against criminals linked to insurgent activity enhanced the legitimacy of Australian operations through a commitment to the ‘rule of law’, enabling the HN government to control the population through the application of the country’s own laws.
Despite the challenges face by MPs, the execution of tasks and support to neighbouring elements within the exercise provided the opportunity to test, evaluate and revise law enforcement techniques. Protecting the reputation of the Australian Defence Force was vital to the success of the exercise, and MPs from D Coy played their part in ensuring the delivery of required outcomes through professional policing and law enforcement effects.
About the author: Matthew Ray is a Military Police soldier currently posted to D Company, 1st Military Police Battalion. Prior to transferring to the Military Police, Matthew served with the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.