Support our mission
Marine Gunnery Sgt. James Roberto of the Provost Marshal's Office on Camp Foster, Okinawa, stands in front of the new Mobile Command Post. Military police refitted a small school bus destined for the scrap heap to serve as an on-scene coordination point for responses.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. James Roberto of the Provost Marshal's Office on Camp Foster, Okinawa, stands in front of the new Mobile Command Post. Military police refitted a small school bus destined for the scrap heap to serve as an on-scene coordination point for responses. (Mark Oliva / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Marine Corps’ bad boys here just got badder. Shiny tin badges are now riding around in a shiny new bus.

The Provost Marshal’s Office unveiled a new Mobile Command Post here Wednesday, a vehicle that lets them take law enforcement to every end of Okinawa.

It’s a small school bus that was saved from the scrap yard and converted for police use. It’s got everything from an on-board computer to flashing red lights.

“With a population as large as ours, we need the capability to coordinate emergency response,” said Lt. Col. Kevan Kvenlog, Provost Marshal for Marine Corps Bases in Japan.

“We do work like a regular police department, and there isn’t a department with 350 police officers that doesn’t have this capability.”

The Mobile Command Post will serve three roles on Okinawa. It will be an on-scene coordination point for emergency response as well as a mini-headquarters for large events, such as when bases host open houses or festivals.

It also will be part of the military police campaign to curb drunken driving. Just one week ago, the Mobile Command Post augmented Kadena’s Security Police in conducting sobriety checkpoints at the gate.

The Mobile Command Post also links other emergency response assets. Military Police Security Response Teams, Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s mobile crime scene van and the base fire department’s command vehicles are now all linked through the Mobile Command Post.

“During the last 16 months, I’ve seen the need for this Mobile Command Post,” Kvenlog said. “We’re off to a very good start. We’re going off to the north end of the island for more sea trials next month.”

The idea started last March with not much more than a few thoughts of how to make law enforcement and emergency response run smoother. Gunnery Sgt. James Roberto, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of training for military police, got the daunting task of building the new vehicle from the ground up.

Roberto found an abandoned school bus that was taken off the road in 1997. It was nearly falling apart and resembled the type of vehicle the military police were trying to keep off the roads.

“It was full of mold,” Roberto said. “There was graffiti all over the seats. It needed a paint job and some engine work. On top of that, I had no budget.”

Roberto started to pool assets. Facilities Engineering on the base worked on the bus’ interior, replacing worn rows of seats with cabinets for equipment.

The base motor pool got the engine running again, and the base communications section installed radios.

Now, it’s loaded.

Global positioning systems tell military police exactly where they are. Internal police radios are linked to patrol cars and base headquarters, and an ultra-high frequency radio lets military police talk to helicopters for search-and-rescue missions. There’s even an on-board Intoxilyzer to measure blood-alcohol content at checkpoints.

“It’s 100 percent better than the way we used to have to do things,” Roberto said. “Just for emergency response, it makes things a lot better. When we had people swept to sea in the past, we used to have to stand out in the rain with a cell phone.”

Still, the Mobile Command Post is only an interim fix. Military police are still learning the best way to use the small bus and what needs to be added to make it work for all law enforcement and emergency roles.

Kvenlog hopes to incorporate those lessons into a more permanent vehicle in the next couple of years.

“It’s not new, but it’s new to us,” Kvenlog said. “It’s a fundamental thing we’re still learning how to develop.”


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up