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Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Drumsta - JFHQ, New York Army National Guard
Dated: Tue, Sep 10, 2013
AUBURN, NY - Between duty abroad and natural disasters at home, New York Army National Guard military police Soldiers have accomplished a lot since 2010, according to Lt. Col. Arthur Zegers, the outgoing commander of the 102nd Military Police Battalion.
Zegers passed command to Maj. Mike Fowler in a change-of-command ceremony here Sept. 8. The battalion is the higher headquarters for the 206th, 105th, and 222nd Military Police Companies, and until earlier this year, the 107th MP Company.
In the last three years, those units were either preparing to deploy, serving overseas, or ramping down from a deployment, Zegers said.
"We’ve pretty much done it all in three years," said Zegers, of Malta, N.Y. "We were called upon by New York state and the nation, and we were able to do both missions successfully."
At different times in that period, the 206th and 105th MP Companies served in Iraq, and the 107th MP Company served in Cuba, Zegers said. The 222nd MP Company is now serving in Qatar, he added.
If they weren’t deployed, Soldiers in those companies stepped up to help civilian authorities during Hurricane Irene, Hurricane Sandy and flood disasters, Zegers said.
"Back in the day, our main focus was training to prepare for annual training," he reflected, adding that their jobs are "300 percent harder" now compared to the 1990s.
Readying units to deploy while maintaining readiness for homeland disasters meant extra work for everyone, from the battalion staff to the units, Zegers stressed.
In addition to helping train and equip these troops for overseas missions, the battalion had to screen Soldiers and shift them to strengthen deploying units, Zegers said -- a process he bluntly called "man up and train up."
"It has a been a continuing process for us because every year, we’ve had units going out the door," he said.
To help deploy the troops, the battalion supported five Pre-Mobilization training (PMT) events at Fort Drum, N.Y., Zegers said. Even now they’re preparing 50 Soldiers, mostly senior officers and non-commissioned officers, to deploy as planners to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Zegers said.
"That takes a lot of our knowledge base," he said.
And duty continued for the Soldiers who remained, Zegers stressed. Along with continuing training and staying ready to help with disasters, they had to rebuild their ranks, and often did the same jobs with fewer resources, he added.
But thanks to weekly conference calls, test alerts and the Soldiers’ efforts, the units responded well to the disasters, Zegers said. In addition to taking on unexpected missions from civilian authorities, the military police Soldiers were proactive, and helped clear flood debris from streets and homes, he recalled.
"Toward the end of each of these missions, we lent a hand with pure labor," Zegers said. During natural disasters, the military police Soldiers are adept at task-organizing and assigning jobs as they come up, he added.
The troops also adapted well to new equipment units received, such as tasers and the M1117 Armored Security Vehicle (ASV).
"It requires a tremendous amount of maintenance, and training for a Soldier to know how to operate one," he said. The battalion has established a taser-training program, he added, which will advance the military police Soldiers’ skills.
Zegers was effusive in his gratitude and praise for the battalion staff, his superiors, unit commanders, non-commissioned officers, family readiness groups, his own family and friends, and the troops. The Soldiers, he said, are the "treasure of our nation."
"Soldiers of the 102nd MP Battalion, I am truly honored to have served with you," Zegers said at the ceremony. "You have brought great credit to our units, and yourselves. I know you will continue to do the same for Maj. Fowler."
In addition to his other education and experience, Fowler has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, was the commander of the 105th MP Company during deployments to Iraq and Bosnia, and served as the 102nd MP Battalion operations officer. He lives in Sodus Point, N.Y.
"I leave with the great satisfaction of knowing the unit is in great hands," Zegers concluded. "Maj. Fowler is a natural leader, as proven by his history, in the brigade and in this battalion. Mike, it’s all yours, you’re the right person for the job."