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Military police react to sniper fire as they prepare to evacuate civilians from an apartment building during a training exercise Thursday at Rodriguez Range in South Korea.

Military police react to sniper fire as they prepare to evacuate civilians from an apartment building during a training exercise Thursday at Rodriguez Range in South Korea. (Jon Rabiroff / S&S)

Military police react to sniper fire as they prepare to evacuate civilians from an apartment building during a training exercise Thursday at Rodriguez Range in South Korea.

Military police react to sniper fire as they prepare to evacuate civilians from an apartment building during a training exercise Thursday at Rodriguez Range in South Korea. (Jon Rabiroff / S&S)

Military police pull an injured civilian to safety as snipers interupt the evacuation of an apartment building during a training exercise.

Military police pull an injured civilian to safety as snipers interupt the evacuation of an apartment building during a training exercise. (Jon Rabiroff / S&S)

Military police load apartment building evacuees into a truck under sniper fire during a training exercise.

Military police load apartment building evacuees into a truck under sniper fire during a training exercise. (Jon Rabiroff / S&S)

MPs guide civilians out of an apartment building under sniper fire during a training exercise.

MPs guide civilians out of an apartment building under sniper fire during a training exercise. (Jon Rabiroff / S&S)

A military policeman responds to sniper fire during a training exercise.

A military policeman responds to sniper fire during a training exercise. (Jon Rabiroff / S&S)

RODRIGUEZ RANGE, South Korea — A military police company came here last week to hone its skills, and not one traffic ticket was issued or one bar fight broken up.

In fact, the MPs stormed a building and evacuated civilians while exchanging gunfire with “snipers” during the exercise.

It seems you have to kick open a few doors if you want people to recognize that MPs are more than keepers of the peace.

“A lot of people are confused,” said Capt. Marshall Hunt, commander of the 55th MP Company based at Camp Casey.

“They only see MPs out there running around in patrol cars, and that is half of our mission. The other half … is our war-fighting mission.”

The image of MPs is changing in the ranks, but not fast enough for some people.

“There are some areas where we could be utilized a little different,” Sgt. 1st Class Bradley Guerrieri said. “It’s hard when your higher-up … doesn’t understand the whole MP mission. They don’t understand we bring a lot of combat power to the table.

“Because the Army is evolving into a whole new infrastructure … this is just part of the growing pains — trying to get everyone educated on who brings what to the table,” he said.

But progress is being made, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guerrieri said.

“Years ago, they never would have called upon MPs to do some of the missions,” he said. “Now we’re working alongside the combat power. They’re understanding we have a lot of combat power. If they use it right, it’s a combat multiplier.”

Members of the 55th MP Company and the Yongsan Garrison-based HHD 94th MP Battalion spent four days at Rodriguez Range — about 15 miles from the DMZ — as part of a scenario in which there had been “aggressive activity from the North Koreans” and the MPs had to secure a village and keep the adjacent road safe for U.S. and South Korean troops, Hunt said.

The exercise was not planned in response to the recent acts and talk of aggression from North Korea, he said, nor was it particularly aimed at preparing his company for any future action on the Korean peninsula.

“It doesn’t matter where my MPs go after this,” Hunt said. “They can fight here in South Korea. They can fight in Iraq or Afghanistan. But I am giving them the basic skill set that will make them successful anywhere.”

In Thursday’s exercise, the MPs had to evacuate about 20 residents of an apartment building while under fire from two nearby buildings and a wooded area along their route.

Further complicating the task were a mock explosive device that went off as the convoy approached the building, the fact that a handful of “North Koreans” were among the evacuees, and a few of the civilians being injured by gunfire as they were led away.

Lt. Col. Matthew Coulson, the 94th MP Battalion commander, was satisfied after the evacuation, telling Hunt that the point of such exercises is to identify and correct any mistakes that were made.

Coulson said he has seen the role of MPs evolve over the past couple of decades from “ticket writers” and “gate guards” to the “war fighters” who are now “one of the most deployed forces” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We just have to [continue to] educate our superiors to make sure they understand what the military mission is for the military police in combat, and how we can be a combat multiplier for the maneuver forces,” he said.

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