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CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — There’s no smoking, joking or trips to Taco Bell during prisoner escorts outside the brig at Camp Hansen.

It’s strictly business between the military escorts and the prisoners they accompany to doctor appointments, lawyer visits, courts-martial and trips to the bank.

Known as "chasers," these escorts are portable guards trained to make sure prisoners arrive to and from their appointments safe and secure.

It’s not a glorious job. A chaser sometimes spends eight hours shuffling a prisoner from appointment to appointment — which means time away from his unit and his job.

But it’s a necessary job, said Marine Gunnery Sgt. Theresa Chapman, training chief for the brig.

Chapman teaches a weekly, three-hour course that trains chasers on how to handle prisoners and conduct escorts.

"Some (servicemembers) are motivated by it, and others don’t want to sit or wait around for eight hours," Chapman said. "I don’t think they realize what a big deal it is."

Chasers are selected by their unit based on the number of imprisoned servicemembers within their command, Chapman said.

Prisoner custody classifications, such as minimum and maximum, determine the number of chasers needed per prisoner, she said.

Deployments and duty can leave units short on manpower, which means fewer servicemembers available to act as escorts.

To ensure units are staffed with enough certified chasers, servicemembers routinely rotate through Chapman’s Thursday training sessions at Camp Hansen. She’s been teaching the course for four years.

Participants must complete the course and pass a 50-question test to receive certification.

The course typically attracts 10 to 15 servicemembers weekly, Chapman said.

There, servicemembers learn how to handcuff a prisoner, frisk and, more importantly, watch for signs of escape attempts, injury or illness.

"When someone doesn’t know what they’re doing, a prisoner may take a chance," Chapman said. "They’re looking for any little thing that will take your mind off what you’re doing."

Still, it’s not an opportunity for servicemembers to assert authority or machismo, Chapman said.

Treatment of prisoners should be "fair, firm and impartial," according to the slogan at the brig.

Chasers are unarmed, and shouldn’t chase after prisoners, Chapman said. Escorts are instructed to report trouble to officials at the brig.

Chapman said she’s never had a prisoner escape during a chase.

Lance Cpl. Diogo Delgado, a supply clerk with Headquarters and Service Battalion, recently completed the training. He said while being a chaser is another added responsibility, he plans to conduct it with the same professionalism he displays on his job.

"If our unit needs us to take care of someone, we just got to step up," he said.


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