AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Army National Guard Soldiers from the 488th Military Police Company are conducting dismounted patrols through Afghan villages, meeting with Afghan leaders and reacting to roadside bombs without ever leaving New England.
The 488th is at the Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho, Vt., preparing for the rigors of war during two weeks of preparation for deployment to Afghanistan later this summer.
The Pre-Mobilization Training Assistance Element, and the MEARNG use the site to train the MPs on many of the tasks they might encounter downrange. They are using simulated munitions, employing other soldiers to act like local Afghans and challenging the “Guardians” at every turn.
Pvt. Tyler Blakney, a military police officer from Headquarters Platoon, 1st Squad feels the realism, of the training will help prepare him for the deployment. “It’s very realistic. We have simulated rounds and it feels real, especially when everything starts happening. It gets you more prepared for when you’re overseas and you are actually going through villages and you hit an IED or you get attacked. You’re ready, you’re prepared and you know what’s going to happen.”
During the training Blakney maneuvered a HMMWV through the IED lane constantly scanning the road ahead, carefully following the orders of his team leader and shouting information to the rest of the truck. The teamwork gives him a sense of confidence.
Soldiers dressed as Afghan civilians roam the lane carrying weapons, undistinguishable from those who might try to do them harm. Simulated IEDs have been placed deliberately to measure their awareness; no one person could possibly see all of the threats.
“I am very comfortable and I know that my battle buddies will have my back and they know I have theirs in every situation,” said Blakney.
For 1st Lt. Ashley Seiler, platoon leader for first platoon, the training was a chance to assess what her soldiers could do. “It showed who needs to work on what and what people are capable of as squads, there was a lot of team building,” said Seiler, a former enlisted Soldier from Gorham.
After Seiler led her platoon through a mock Afghan village and met with the town leader, the group paused the exercise to give feedback to her and her troops. Seiler thinks the feedback contributes to their overall success.
“The PTAE have all deployed, probably more than one time. So, all their knowledge is absolutely helpful to what they are teaching us, and what they are trying to get us to understand,” said Seiler.
Blakney, a Winslow native, prepared his equipment for the next lane of training and said, “When the time comes, I know I’ll be ready to go. There is no doubt in my mind.”