FORT HUACHUCA

Of the Troops, For the Troops: 503rd MP Bn Stays True to its Credo

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Story by SGT Nicholas Brown-Bell on 05/22/2019
DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Lt. Col. Jason Avery, 503rd Military Police Battalion Commander, sat at his desk in a converted aircraft hangar on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., a mere foot away from his sleeping area: an Army-issue cot covered with a pop-up tent and standard issue green sleeping bag.

Avery was told not to get too comfortable in the hangar because they would likely move, but he has never been one to wait. Within 48 hours of arrival, the 503rd Military Police Battalion was ready to operate as if they had never left Fort Bragg, N.C., having converted the hangar into a fully functional Tactical Operations Center.

The Enforcers were conducting a training exercise when Avery got the call to pack his troops up. Within 96 hours, the 503rd MP Bn. and its 65th MP Co. arrived at Davis-Monthan to assist the Department of Defense's support to the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection. Roughly a dozen of the battalion headquarters' Soldiers were spread out throughout the hangar, using cots and ponchos to separate living areas and hope for some privacy in their brief down time.

After completing the first phase of their mission, the 503rd got new orders: send one of its companies to assist the 515th Sapper Co. with the next stage. So, engineers and MPs alike stood atop a cargo container secured to the bed of a heavy military truck, preparing coils of concertina wire for hanging on the fence separating Nogales, Ariz. and Mexico.

"It's a non-standard mission, for sure, but it's a Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) mission. We do DSCA missions well, as MPs," said Avery. "Working with Customs and Border Protection has been phenomenal, and being able to train, maintaining our proficiencies without hurting the mission, it's been great."

And train they did. Whenever a team returned from the field, Sgt. 1st Class James Bockelmann, TOC NCOIC, got busy planning and executing intense and difficult training for the Enforcers. Joining with their Air Force counterparts, 503rd Soldiers trained with military working dogs and at the Tucson Police Department's South Arizona Law Enforcement Training Center, practicing vehicle maneuverability tactics and high-speed pursuit skills. They conducted combat water survival training, military combatives certification, and weapons ranges at neighboring Fort Huachuca, Ariz., and about a dozen of them were introduced to oleoresin capsicum, better known as pepper spray.

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Frye, 65th MP Co., conducted O/C certification, saying "It's a lot of fun to watch because we've all been there; but, more importantly, I know that I'm training my guys to be able to defend themselves and others against anything thrown at them."

Sgt. Michael Nicholson, 65th MP Co., was first up. "Let's do this," he stated confidently as Frye lined the canister up eye-level and let the spray loose.

When this was recounted to Avery, he barely bat an eye and slowly a wide grin spread across his face. "I'm not surprised, Nicholson's a great MP, just like all of them. They work hard and take every challenge we throw at them and I couldn't be prouder."

But they couldn't do it alone, and Avery and his troops knew that. It was not lost on them that they were Army personnel living on an Air Force base.

"We've received so much amazing support from them, from logistics to contracts to support, we couldn't do it without them," Avery said.

For Avery, this was likely to be the final hurrah of his Army career. This July, he will relinquish command of the 503rd Military Police Battalion in preparation for his October retirement.

"There's so many people coming up behind me, let's see how they do. I'm happy with what I've done and I'm proud of my Soldiers. I know they'll continue to do great things without me, because it was never about me in the first place."

Of the Troops, Sir.

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