After a dozen years of training to go into combat zones filled with enemy combatants, some soldiers are now training to manage themselves in peaceful situations involving civilians.
Troopers with Charlie Company, 2nd Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, underwent crowd and riot control training last week at Fort Hood’s Elijah urban training site.
“A lot of the training we are doing now, Armywide, is full-spectrum operations,” said 1st Lt. Steven Shaw, the officer-in-charge of the three-day training event, which ended Thursday in an exercise using role players as rioters.
“This teaches them how to react to a situation in a different way,” he said. “They are keeping themselves safe and mitigating any danger for the people on the other side.”
The potential use for crowd control ranges from peaceful protesters to full on riots to a scenario such as Hurricane Katrina, where thousands of people were being relocated.
Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Ford, a platoon sergeant, said his unit was sent to New Orleans, La., in 2005 for hurricane relief, and this sort of training would have been helpful.
“I had never dealt with civilian areas where people live,” he said. “We were not there to break in doors, we were there to help. ... How can we help while still accomplishing our mission?”
Beginning at the team level, soldiers learned formations and verbal and hand signals used to unify themselves against a crowd from 89th Military Police Brigade soldiers. Eventually the formations grew to platoon-sized shapes. Soldiers learned to chant, “Get back,” while stepping forward in unison with their left feet toward the crowd.
This sends a clear, concise message that’s not demeaning or harmful to the crowd, Ford said.
Sgt. Tyler Holt, a team leader, said the training was easy to grasp, because it built off what soldiers already do.
“I always like trying new things,” he said. “All the guys seem to enjoy the fun training. It’s also team-building.”
Last week’s round of training was prefaced with classes from the San Antonio Police Department, Shaw said.
“It may be that nothing bad ever happens,” Ford said. “They may be mad, but never had hostility toward soldiers. You may be able to walk in with your shields down and speak in a calm tone.”