From The Balance Careers
“Military police officers (MP’s) are both soldiers and peacekeepers … far more duties and responsibilities and is far more complicated than their civilian counterparts … battlefield support, secure camps and outposts, assist in security details and dignitary protection, perform police functions in occupied areas, provide support and assistance to local police forces during and after wartime … tasked with maintaining order and security at the armed forces’ briggs, prisons, and detention centers around the world … responsible for the detention of enemy forces during wartime … They must be eligible to receive a confidential security clearance … investigating felony-level crimes and terrorism …”
“Security Forces Airmen” (Air Force MPs) guarding Minuteman nuclear missile bases:
Senior Airman Jacob Petersen, Flight Security Controller: “We protect the nation’s number one resource … that thing that everyone is scared of … it’s that reason that no one messes with the United States. And we’re out there protecting it.”
5:54 min: “U.S. Army 42nd Military Police Brigade August 2018 conducts a field training exercise … treating and detaining suspects, processing detainees, defending a command post against attacks, and a simulated riot.
6:00 min: As of 2016, Marine MPs no longer train with Army MPs. Here’s a brief look at Marine MP training for embassy protection:
Per Wikipedia, “The Coast Guard also uses the Coast Guard Investigative Service, a mixture of civilian, enlisted, reservists, and officers who are qualified and duly sworn federal law enforcement officers separate from the normal Coast Guard chain of command.”
HISTORY TO CURRENT: 43 minutes, and very thorough. There’s a lot more interesting information at this link.
“[MPs get ] training in riot control, distinguishing combatant from non-combatant, and non-lethal apprehension of suspects … [this] is what separates MPs from typical combat soldiers. And it’s what makes them valuable to peacekeeping operations … Commanders headed for areas of civil strife anywhere in the world would not leave home without them.”
The force we call Military Police began during America’s Revolutionary War. 2:20: “…the great majority of those who fought in the American Revolution were militia … and these were undisciplined, untrained, and usually unruly men.” George Washington named his force after the French MP’s of that time, the “Maréchaussée Corp”. They patrolled the army camps, arresting drunken soldier and thieves, and watching for spies … they guarded the rear, “gathering stragglers”, dealing with enemy POWs, and protecting supplies and supply lines from enemy saboteurs. And executing deserters. At sea, the Maréchaussée Corps was known as Masters at Arms, and they served as Basic Training instructors, among other duties.
When the Revolutionary War ended, the Maréchaussée Corps was disbanded.
When the Civil War began, untrained, undisciplined soldiers of the Union Army presented the same problems they had in the Revolutionary War, so General Irvin McDowell formed a “Provost Corps”, an MP force”to keep soldiers in line”.
When the Civil War ended, the Provost Corps was disbanded.
At the beginning of World War One, Brig. General Harry H. Bandholz was tasked with forming the force which was the first to be called Military Police, and the first to wear MP armbands. The General established four basic MP functions:
1. Maneuver and Mobility Support Operations – “combat traffic control”: moving men, equipment, supplies, to the front. Making sure routes and lines of communication are open, convoy escorts when needed, knowing alternate routes in case of need.
2. Rear Area Security: “the infantry in the rear” against guerillas.
3. Dealing with enemy POWs: get them out of the combat zone so they’re less likely to do any more harm.
4. Maintain law and order among troops according to Uniform Code of Military Justice. Investigate serious crimes, which was a new duty in 1917. Previously, Pinkertons had investigated. But WW1 swelled the Army to half a million soldiers “almost overnight”, in a foreign nation. That was far beyond the abilities of the Pinkertons.
When World War One ended, the new Military Police force was disbanded.
World War Two started and the Army had to start recruiting and training MPs from scratch again.
On September 26, 1941, by authorization of Congress, a centralized permanent MP command was finally formed. Initial roster was 2,000, but by 1945 it had grown to 200,000. Shore Patrol was established because off ship, sailors were beyond the reach of the Masters at Arms.
The Air Force, while still the Army Air Corps, required MPs for airbase security, involving more direct contact with the enemy than was normal for other branches of the Military Police. These MPs are actually designated a combat role, as opposed to Army MPs’ designation of support role.
In December of 1944, Hitler’s last hurrah at the Battle of the Bulge, English speaking Germans were recruited and dressed as MPs. They “… infiltrated our lines, and they caused chaos.” They were commandos whose primary mission was to kill generals. They were, however, discovered and either shot on the spot or arrested.
MPs were part of the occupying force in Germany after the war. They also guarded nazi prisoners at Nuremberg war crimes trials – and executed condemned Germans at the end of the trials.
But at the end of the war in 1946, MPs were cut to less than 19,000. One year later, there were only about 2,000 remaining.
[The only information I could find on numbers now was old. According to a 2003 Wall Street Journal article, there were at that time about 42,000 MPs.]
“The war in Vietnam brought MPs into direct combat with the enemy more than any other US military engagement before or since”, because MPs traditionally guarded the rear. But in Vietnam, there was no rear. “Security Police fended off ferocious assaults from enemy attackers throughout the war.”
From 19:50 – 27:29 is video and description of MPs in action during the Tet offensive (Jan 31 – Feb 24, 1968). “The stellar combat performance of MOs of all branches during the Tet offensive changed the military’s perception of how to use its police.”
The Military Police had forged a permanent, respected role in the US military.
Reinforcing what Snake said not long before he went on his current journey, that the US military makes a big, positive difference for the indigenous people wherever it goes:
1Sgt John Amabile: “We encountered every aspect of law enforcement [in Kosovo] … It’s a country with no law enforcement – except for the US Army.”