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The horrific events of Sept. 11 and the following mobilization of the nation's armed forces were a trial by fire for the Army's new slogan, "Army of One."
The massive call-up of Army Reserve units in the weeks following the terrorist attacks has placed America's citizen-soldiers in a position not experienced since Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm more than 10 years ago.
Now, as they were then, active and Reserve components are standing side-by-side for the defense of the country.
The 400th Military Police (MP) Battalion is the installation's latest partner in the fight against terror.The unit has been providing force protection and Access Control services for the National Security Agency (NSA) here since its activation in late October.
The battalion is accomplishing its mission with soldiers from its Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC).
This makes the task especially interesting since the majority of the troops at the gates are not MPs, according to Master Sgt. James Cox, the battalion operations sergeant major.
"In developing our training program, we had to ensure that our support personnel were given the same training as our MPs," said Cox.
The 400th is classified as a Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) Internment and Resettlement (I/R) MP battalion.
Its traditional wartime mission is to conduct operations to shelter, sustain, guard, protect and account for up to 4,000 EPWs, civilian internees and/or displaced persons in the 3rd U.S. Army area of operations.
To do this, the battalion and HHC are assigned cooks, engineers, medics, mechanics, carpenters, intelligence specialists and other non-police occupational specialties.
Cox and other senior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) in the battalion operations section, or S-3, developed a training program to ensure that both their MPs and support troops were qualified to perform Access Control duties here.
"We formed our training program around standards used by the Installation Provost Marshal Office (PMO) to certify garrison MPs," said Cox.
Battalion personnel underwent a rigorous, 30-day train-up under the watchful eyes of observers from 1st Army.
The soldiers learned or refreshed defensive driving, first aid, marksmanship, unarmed self-defense, traffic control, force protection and legal skills, as well as learning Access Control procedures unique to Fort Meade and the NSA. "As reservists, we bring skills and training used in our civilian jobs to the mission.
"For example, the NCO that conducted the defensive driving block is also a driving instructor certified by the state of Maryland," said Battalion Command Sgt. Maj. Kurtis Timmer, an officer with the U.S. Capitol Police.
"And, I chose (Master) Sgt. Cox and my other two NCOs in the S-3 because of their real-world experience as police officers. Their skills are current because of their day-to-day jobs," Timmer continued.
Cox is a K-9 officer with the Metro Washington Airport Police Department who took part in clearing Dulles and Reagan National airports immediately following the attacks Sept. 11.
Other examples of civilian training used by reservists in uniform are Sgt.
William Hise, an automotive technician for a Cadillac dealership who is the battalion's motor pool shop foreman, and Spc. Leslie Applegate, a cook at NASA Langley and a food service specialist for the unit.
Following the train-up, the battalion was certified as "ready-for-duty" by 1st Army, and they headed to the gates.
Shift supervisor 1st Lt. Robert Wyks is responsible for the well-being of the soldiers at each position.
"It's my job to make sure that each soldier gets fed and relieved for breaks," he said.
The guards generally work in teams and rotate between posts to relieve the monotony of static assignments, according to Wyks.
Each soldier is given breaks throughout the day, and all are given a chance for hot chow at the Four Hats Dining Facility, an arrangement that greatly benefits the battalion because of the facility's quality of services and location near the gates, said Cox.
The hard work and dedication of the soldiers in his command have made the activation easier than it might have been, according to Timmer.
"Everyone has had to make adjustments, and for some, it has been harder than for others.
"Probably 95 percent of these troops have never deployed before. Long work days, relocation, pay differences and family separation have all taken their toll," said Timmer.
Soldiers from cities outside the immediate area have moved into the consolidated barracks on 6th Armored Cavalry Road.
Those within reasonable driving distance are allowed to go home when not on duty, but many spend free time with their comrades living in the barracks.
"The soldiers are taking care of each other," said Timmer.
While their civilian jobs are protected by federal law during activation, few of the reservists reported any other problems with their employers.
"My department offered to supplement my Army pay if it was less than what I made with them," said Wyks, a firefighter and medic with the Prince William County Fire Department.
"My company has been real supportive. Before I left, they told me to be careful," said Spc. Keenan Hankins, a security officer and MP.
The battalion's biggest challenges, now that the train-up is complete, is the continuation of readiness training, maintenance of morale and the alleviation of monotony, according to Timmer.
"I would rate our morale as average, and in the case of some of the younger soldiers, above average.
"Most of the troops are really excited to be doing something for the country," he said.
Although leaders are sometimes removed from the feelings of their subordinates, Timmer's assessment seemed to hit the mark.
"I'm proud to serve any way I can," said Spc. Jamison Greene, a full-time student before being activated.
Greene volunteered for the mission — putting his education at Tidewater Community College in Virginia Beach, Va., on hold.
"This is what we train for. When Uncle Sam says 'Go,' we say 'Okay,'" said Sgt. 1st Class Chris Conner, a program analyst for the Department of Defense.
In an effort to maintain morale, the battalion is concentrating on several areas.
"First, we made sure every soldier had the equipment necessary to perform the mission.
"We provide them with 24-hour support, making sure they get breaks, hot chow, post rotation and days off," said Timmer.
"Many of the battalion's senior NCOs are going to stand watch during the holidays so that soldiers can get some time with their families.
"We've also selected a BOSS (Better Opportunities for Single Service Members) representative to work with the installation BOSS program," he said.
Perhaps the greatest morale booster, according to Timmer, has been the Family Readiness Group.
The group conducted numerous readiness briefings for soldiers and their families, including a make-up session at the McGill Training and Education Center Dec. 8.
Attendees, many of whom were not familiar with Army benefits, received briefings on TRICARE health and dental programs, Army Emergency Relief assistance and American Red Cross services.
Shuttle buses were also provided to transport soldiers and family members to the Military Personnel Division for identification cards.
"The adjustments are hard, and I understand what you are going through," said Brig. Gen. Theodore Szakmary, 220th MP Brigade commander, to the assembled families at the Dec. 8 briefing.
"This is our time to defend what we stand for, and sometimes the easiest part is putting on the uniform.
"Thank you for giving us your loved ones," he said.
The general offered families the opportunity to e-mail or call him at home if any problems arose that could not be fixed through normal channels.
The battalion falls under operational control of the installation, sharing information and resources with the PMO.
"Everyone here has been great about getting us what we need to accomplish our mission," said Timmer.
"Being a part of this mission really brings home the slogan, 'One Team, One Fight,'" he said.
It seems that at least on Fort Meade, "Army of One" is more than a catchy advertising campaign. Here, the philosophy of active and Reserve units, family members, retirees and Department of the Army civilians working together has proven itself worthy of the nation it serves.