Aquia, Virginia Provost Marshal’s Office, 1862

The Ill-Equipped Provost

The Dampening Impact of a Junior Provost Marshal

Rippling through the Army’s Military Police Regiment are droplets of new visions, new ideas, and new direction. Some concepts crater the Regimental waters deeper than others. Heavy hitters are starting to take shape, adding weight and velocity to theories for change. Unaffiliated groups like the MP Project Junto, a growing professional circle of Military Police Leaders, serves as a conduit to broadcast the energetic ideas of young leaders, while balancing out discussion with the wisdom of experienced senior leaders. Other droplets are small, back-channel huddles, occurring in cubicles or on a white board in closed offices. The catalyst driving young and old leaders to these professional circles, imbuing them with the passion to bridge white board discussion to published article, is the simple thought that WE can do better.

We can do better. Much of the focus for change, stemming from formal guidance issued by the Regimental front office then reiterated in forums and within professional groups, is centered on questioning the current positions we hold as a branch. Do we need expeditionary forensic capability at the platoon level? What is the command/support relationship between a MP company and a brigade combat team? How can CID better integrate into CSS Battalions? What is a company commanders authority within the DES? Are the defined core competencies of a Military Police Soldier accurate? Each of these questions are valid, important, and exciting to discuss. Most leaders committed and passionate about their profession would quickly latch on and join a side of the debate. These are revolutionary ideas. They are the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. They hold within them potential solutions to the issues we ardently debate. They represent new ground to gain. New horizons. But, are we utilizing the positions we currently own effectively? If not, then what confidence can we give to our ability to hold new ground and reach new horizons?

With the implementation of the Brigade Combat Plan 2020 we observed the conversion of the Brigade Special Troops Battalion to an Brigade Engineer Battalion. For most of us, we regretfully watched the sole Military Police Platoon within a Brigade Combat Team (BCT) evaporate. We lost ground. Military Police leaders reacted quickly to plot a new way ahead. The term “Habitually Aligned” was coined and quickly became the latest buzz word. Leaders spoke out, framing their experiences and plotting a path for habitual alignment of MP Companies to BCTs. In the fall of 2015, the Military Police Journal, the regimental publication, reflected this reaction, printing four articles in a single issue, all describing best practices for habitual alignment. The responses seemed just. We lost ground, our ability to enable combat power for a BCT reduced, the MP footprint trimmed, and our professional egos checked. Yet, the MP Corps still holds a powerful seat within a combat brigade team’s staff.

The field manual for Brigade Combat Teams (FM 3–96) is a more modest FM than one might think, considering the enormous role a BCT plays on the strategic stage. Within this manual, the Provost Marshal staff section is mention five times. Each mention provides surprisingly clear intent and indisputable significance for the MP team. Each word specifically selected and carrying weight. Of note is a passage from chapter 3,

“The brigade special troops battalion converts to a brigade engineer battalion within the BCT and no longer has a military police platoon. Military police support mission requirements are coordinated through the provost marshal to the echelon above brigade.” — FM 3–96 BCT, 3–112, note.

Each of the manual’s references to Military Police operations mirrors this passage, consistently acknowledging the Provost Marshal’s subject matter expertise and responsibility for MP. Within the chapter on mobility operations, the Provost Marshal’s role is expanded from coordination to planning implementation of Military Police.

“The BCT provost marshal is responsible for coordinating military police assets and activities for the brigade. Mobility planning should integrate the security and mobility support discipline to support the BCT with a distribution of military police forces throughout the area of operations” — FM 3–96, 6–25

Within the chapter on protection, the manual carves out space for the Provost Marshal on the brigade Protection Cell (FM 3–96, 3–149). Then follows quickly with expectations for MP planners, emphasizing that they must:

  • Understand the intelligence preparation of the battlefield, CCIRs, and PIRs to facilitate integration of MP.
  • Consider size of AO, lines of communications security, the threat, and plan for detainees in order to determine affect on maneuver forces.
  • Anticipate operational changes and prepare military police efforts towards that action.

These are powerful words coming from the document that directs our primary customer’s actions. The responsibility of the Provost Marshal, with regards to application of Military Police disciplines in support of a brigade, is significant. The Provost Marshal’s cell must be endowed with depth of knowledge for the military decision making process, be able to articulate MP technical capabilities and tactical tasks, draw connections between MP activities and their ability to enable the combat power for the maneuver battalions and the brigade as a whole. The BCT FM describes an experienced, well rounded, competent staff officer. Which explains why the position of the Provost Marshal within a brigade combat team is a highly sought after position for our Corps. Or is it?

As we raced to find a new solution to perceived irrelevance, coining new words, and plotting new ways to capture new terrain, did we forget about the ground we already held? Who do we send to the BCTs? Successful post command captains and senior NCOs? Or is the Provost Marshal a holding area for pre-command Captains and Lieutenants awaiting a platoon or career course date? How do we select Provost Marshals? Are our Provost Marshal’s equipped to meet the expectations of the brigade and become active contributors to the staff?

The BCT Provost Marshal is a tool that can produce decisive results for the MP Corps. Their ability to generate MP value within an BCT staff is essential to the efforts of creating habitual relationships. A Provost Marshal who can articulate, embed, and direct MP capabilities within the BCT’s operations process and planning, is a Provost marshal who will generate need within the BCT for a habitual relationship with an MP organization. Yet, this is no easy task and we do not send our best. A BCT staff possesses representatives from each of the war fighting functions. Each representative an experienced, expert, senior leader with years of experience within their function area (typically Majors and Senior NCOs). There is already little room on this robust, fast moving staff and forcing an unprepared, inexperienced, junior MP leader into the that arena will only create diminishing opportunities as their ability, experience, and knowledge will not meet the expectations of the BCT staff. (an indicator of a Provost Marshal who has faded to the corner of the arena can be found in any brigade order, when the only MP mentions are found in Annex C and Annex E)

If we are serious as a Regiment and intend to actively pour our passion into driving organizational change and improve our position within the Army, we must keep cratering the water and allow our concepts and ideas to spark conversation and action as they ripple throughout the ranks. We must consider the positions of advantage we currently hold. As we stand now, the ill-equipped Provost Marshals attempting to influence MP action within brigade combat teams is serving as a breakwater, dampening our waves of change. If we are to change, we must first change here by adding emphasis to the Provost Marshal position and carefully consider who we send to represent our Regiment.

And so, I’ll add another droplet to the regimental pool, Why is it not competitive to be a BCT Provost Marshal?

The ideas and thoughts contained are the author’s alone and do not reflect the official opinion of the DoD, the Army, or the Military Police Corps.

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