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Reserve MPs take on Bagram beat one day at a time

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Cpl. Margie Jones and USpc. Judy Sanchez, both military police officers assigned to the Army Reserve's 539th Military Police Detachment, out of Buckeye, Ariz., currently patrol sector 4 on Bagram Airfield.

Being a military police officer on Bagram Airfield, or BAF, can be a thankless job.

"People don't like to see us coming until they actually need us," said Jones.

Their area of responsibility consists of the north end of the main road to the far northeast corner of the airfield. This includes the long expanse of wire that separates the north end of the airfield from the nearby village, otherwise known as "Sniper Alley." Patrol districts are switched regularly so everyone is familiar with each area.

The unit, which is assigned to the 200th Military Police Command at Fort Meade, Md., is primarily as a law and order unit, which means their mission is to patrol the interior of the base. The Air Force security forces manage the entry control points and external security.

"We do the same thing we do back at home," said Sgt. Antwon Yourse, the night shift desk sergeant, attached to the 539th MPD. "We have our patrol districts and each unit is responsible for the calls in their assigned areas."

A typical day for Sanchez and Jones starts out with weapons issue and the morning briefing. Any events that happened on the previous night's shift are discussed and the day's schedule is laid out.

They then head to their assigned vehicle and perform preventive maintenance checks and services on their vehicle to ensure everything is working properly.

Jones and Sanchez usually work together if there is an odd number of Soldiers on a particular shift.

"Depending on how many people we have on shift, we either ride solo or tandem," Sanchez said.

Jones and Sanchez deal with myriad situations on a daily basis. Recently, they found a marijuana grow operation. Alcohol is not much of an issue on the military side, but they have had to deal with intoxicated contractors in the past. Recently, a contractor got violent after consuming too much alcohol and after repeated commands to surrender, had to be tazered by the responding MPs.

"One of the more common incidents we respond to are negligent discharges," said Sanchez. "We get one about once every couple days here on BAF."

They also receive a lot of calls regarding suspicious packages including trash bags on the side of the road, abandoned backpacks and even a Tupperware container.

"When medical emergencies occur, we respond to provide security for the emergency medical technicians and fire-fighters," said Sanchez. "We've actually had incidents where the EMTs have gotten assaulted by witnesses."

On a typical patrol, the MPs drive their sector to look for suspicious activity and conduct presence patrols in public areas like the hospital and bazaar. This let's the residents on Bagram know the MPs are on duty and acts as a deterrent for potential criminals.

One of the primary tasks the 539th MPs perform is parking and traffic enforcement.

"I don't like to give tickets, unless I really think the person deserves it," said Jones. "When I find cars parked in front of the passenger terminal unattended or in front of water reservoirs, I usually give them a ticket."

"I once pulled over a bus that was going 60 [kilometers per hour in a 25kph zone]," Sanchez added. "They passed a runner without moving over. I definitely gave them a ticket."

In dealing with the general public on BAF, Jones and Sanchez understand that building a rapport with the community is crucial to mission success. As part of their regular patrol duties, they like to take the time to talk to local shop owners and military personnel.

"We try to give everyone, especially the local nationals, the time of day, which they appreciate," Jones said.

Occasionally, Jones and Sanchez encounter an individual who, because of rank or position, thinks he or she can get away with violating base policy.

"We have to walk the fine line between asserting our authority but still respecting rank," explained Jones.

Jones said she responded to a traffic accident not long ago where a local national crashed into a concrete barrier. The driver was going to get his license revoked and kicked off the base, but Jones defended the LN and he was allowed to keep his privileges.

"I have a passion for people," she added. "I like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt."

Sanchez, Jones and their fellow MPs pull 12-13 hour shifts with a day off a week. The days are long, especially when they recently had to provide security for Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III's visit to Bagram Airfield.

As the day draws to a close, the MPs trickle in one and two at a time, turn in their gear, check their vehicles and prepare to brief the night shift. In 12 hours, Jones and Sanchez will be on patrol again, and with each new day comes new challenges.

"I love this job," Jones said. "You never know what the day will bring."

Article by Sgt. Christopher Bonebrake, Army.mil