FORWARD OPERATING BASE RIPLEY, Afghanistan -- Military policemen from MEU Service Support Group 22, the combat service support element of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), have been an essential part of the security forces escorting personnel and gear along the roads of Afghanistan.
Rolling with Golf Battery, who provides most of the muscle during these convoys, the MPs are sometimes the heads and tails of the columns. Should convoys be needed to roll out on a moments notice, the MPs are ready to take the lead.
"We're basically on call," said MSSG-22 military policeman Lance Cpl. Rodolfo R. Fuentez, a Wilwaukee, Wis., native. "We live out of our trucks. All of our gear stays on the truck. We've got to be ready to move out at all times."
Once out on the road, the MPs act as scouts for the main body of the convoy, stopping traffic as necessary and conducting searches of people and vehicles.
"We punch up ahead to check out the route and make sure it's clear," said Staff Sgt. William Abernathy, a squad leader. "The purpose of the searches is to put forth the presence that we are looking for something, to deny sanctuary [to ACM forces]."
The MPs are actually looking for a variety of things during the searches. Weapons, materials for improvised explosive devices, and Taliban or other terrorist paraphernalia top the list of indicators that a person may be more than a casual traveler. For those who are merely going from one place to another, the searches draw little resistance and almost no reaction.
"There's no real response," said Abernathy. "They know the deal. Its just part of the routine."
Being first in the column doesn't come without its risks. In case of enemy contact, the MPs would also be the first responders. They would identify where the attack came from and return fire to allow the main security team to move into position.
While not on the road, the MPs also have the job of guarding suspected Taliban, terrorists or their supporters in the persons-under-control facility. With recent developments on Iraq, the oversight of the facility is not only over those on the inside, but on those guarding them as well.
"The PUCs are the most delicate issue right now," said Sgt. Nick Cyr, a military policeman from Rye, N.H. "The world is keeping eyes on these guys."
The PUCs in the facility are afforded their fundamental human rights, particularly in regards to practicing Islam.
"They're praying all five times a day," said Cyr. "They can use the restroom whenever the need to go, they can drink as much water as they want and eat three times a day."
Despite the international scrutiny, the MPs will continue to conduct themselves as the MEU's finest, both on and off the road.
In addition to MSSG-22, the 22nd MEU (SOC) consists of its Command Element, Battalion Landing Team 1st Bn., 6th Marines, and Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 266 (Reinforced).
For more information on the 22nd MEU (SOC)'s role in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, visit the unit's web site at www.22meu.usmc.mil.