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Members of the Army’s 552nd Military Police Company practice live-firing a MK-19 40 mm automatic grenadelauncher.

Members of the Army’s 552nd Military Police Company practice live-firing a MK-19 40 mm automatic grenadelauncher. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

Members of the Army’s 552nd Military Police Company practice live-firing a MK-19 40 mm automatic grenadelauncher.

Members of the Army’s 552nd Military Police Company practice live-firing a MK-19 40 mm automatic grenadelauncher. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

An MP team leader with the Army's 552nd Military Police Co. gives hand-and-arm signals in a mock assault on enemy positions during convoy live-fire exercise at Su Song range near Pohang, South Korea.

An MP team leader with the Army's 552nd Military Police Co. gives hand-and-arm signals in a mock assault on enemy positions during convoy live-fire exercise at Su Song range near Pohang, South Korea. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

TAEGU, South Korea — Even before the mock ambush, Army Spc. Larry Helmick knew he’d better brief his people on what voice commands and hand signals he’d be using.

Helmick is Charlie Team leader in 4th Platoon, 1st Squad, 552nd Military Police Company at Camp Hialeah in Pusan, South Korea.

His company was doing live-fire convoy training from Sunday through Wednesday among the brown hills of Su Song range near Pohang.

“Most of the weapons we have I’ve fired before, and I know how loud they are,” Helmick said.

“Before we went out, I briefed my team on what the commands were so they’d be listening for them, the hand-and-arm signals, ‘move left,’ ‘move right,’ ‘move back,’ so they’re staying in their lane and not crossing over into anybody else’s,” Helmick said.

Because convoy escort along main supply routes is a key part of the MPs’ wartime mission, especially in lower South Korea, convoy battle drills are emphasized, said Master Sgt. Anthony Streeter, company tactical operations sergeant.

The exercise drilled the MPs on how to respond to road ambush, how to fire at enemy troops in an open field using the MK-19 40 mm automatic grenade launcher and how to get a wounded MP off the field, Streeter said.

Helmick’s team practiced on a cold, gray Monday afternoon. In the scenario, as the unit’s humvees moved down a road, they came under hostile fire.

The MPs dashed from their humvees firing smoke canisters from vehicle-mounted launchers. With the smoke affording some concealment, they were to huddle a moment behind their humvees while their leader spelled out a quick counterattack plan, much like a quarterback in a fast-breaking football game.

Then, they were to form an assault line and charge the enemy, leapfrogging forward a team at a time, one team hitting the ground and laying down covering fire for the team that dashed forward, a few yards at a time.

“The most challenging part is the communication,” Helmick said, “yelling over the actual gunfire, making sure everybody stays on line, nobody gets too far out in front, making sure everybody’s on the same path, nobody’s going left or right.”

“It was tough,” said Pvt. Justin Fisher, a driver in Helmick’s team. “The weapons going off, it’s real loud, and you have trouble hearing. But if you stick to your plan of attack, it’s going to come out real good.”

Pfc. Park Hee-won, a Korean Army KATUSA soldier assigned to the U.S. Army, is an MK-19 gunner on Charlie Team.

His first chance to use the weapon in live-fire drill gave him a good workout in the methods of adjusting MK-19 fire at the driver’s direction. “I’m very happy,” he said, “because I learned many things from my first live-fire.”

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