- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

CRESAPTOWN, Md. (AP) — The Army is boosting the number of military police trained as prison guards amid complaints that MPs charged in the Iraqi abuse scandal were not prepared for such duty, officials said.

The Army will create a company of about 150 prison guards, plus a 50-member command structure, by Sept. 30, said officials of the Army Military Police Corps at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., who spoke late last week on the condition of anonymity.

An additional 300 soldiers guarding U.S. military prisoners at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., will be made available for duty in the Middle East, the officials said.

Also, two more companies of about 150 soldiers each will be included in fiscal 2006, the Army officials said.

With thousands of U.S.-held prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is running out of MPs trained as prison guards, said Jack Gordon, spokesman for the Army Reserve’s 99th Regional Readiness Command, which oversees the unit at the center of the abuse scandal, the 372nd Military Police Company.

About 2 percent of the 5,000 solders trained as MPs each year receive detailed instruction in handling prisoners of war, civilian internees and other detainees, the Army said. During 17 weeks of training, they spend 115 academic hours on the subject, compared with 31 hours for other MPs, Army officials said.

Some of those charged in the scandal, as well as their families, have cited inadequate training in their defense. They say the soldiers, some trained as clerks or mechanics, were overwhelmed by the job of guarding as many as 250 prisoners each with little guidance except to “loosen up” some prisoners for interrogation.

Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, dismissed the contentions when he visited the 372nd’s headquarters near Cumberland on May 1.

“I believe that members of this unit had the requisite training to ensure that they were aware of and competent in the task needed to secure enemy prisoners of war, and to ensure that they were aware of the requirement for humane treatment of prisoners,” Gen. Helmly said.

The Army also has said that all soldiers, regardless of job assignments, learn about the Geneva Conventions prohibiting mistreatment of prisoners of war and others.

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