PRETORIA, South Africa -- Forty Military Police Soldiers and Airmen from both the New York National Guard and the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) exchanged policing, force protection and security experiences here during a two week joint training exchange 2 to 13 October at the SANDF Military Police Academy.
The exchange also included a Naval Criminal Investigative Service Special Agent from the Naples, Italy Field Office who provided training on crime scene and forensic techniques.
The joint military police training is a first for the New York and Republic of South Africa National Guard State Partnership Program.
The training included courses in offensive and defensive hand-to-hand combat skills, counter-terrorism and physical security, weapons retention, operations security, survival and escape techniques, and vehicle stops.
"It has been a great experience on both ends. Being immersed in the culture by interacting directly with the South Africans on a peer to peer basis is definitely a best practice," said New York Army National Guard Master Sgt. Ashvin Thimmaiah, a member of the 106th Regional Training Institute.
"We have all learned so much from each other relating to both doctrine and culture, it's been a truly unique and wonderful exchange," he added.
The training was the first in a series of three planned engagements aimed at strengthening military to military techniques, data sharing and strategies involving policing for natural or man made disasters to share information and exchange ideas on the composition of military policing and legal jurisprudence.
"Learning about the South African culture and experiencing the way South African MPs incorporate military techniques from tradition and environment into their standard operating procedures was very unique but effective," said Master Sergeant Brandon Arroyo, a member of the New York Air National Guard's 105th Base Defense Squadron said.
Along with hands-on training, the Americans and South Africans discussed military policing and military law. Subjects included Pre- Apartheid policing in South Africa and the National Guard's activation following riots in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014.
Both American and South African presenters discussed the role of military police officers in these kinds of situations, their legal responsibilities and rules of engagement and use of force. Well trained, well equipped military police who are aware of the social dimensions of what is happening around them can make a difference, the instructors emphasized.
U.S. Navy Capt. Steven Morgenfeld and South African National Defense Force Provost Marshal General, Rear Admiral Mokgadi Maphoto both emphasized the importance of learning from each other during the exchange program.
"We look forward to what should prove to be a valuable exchange of shared experiences and best practices, as well as tactics used to maintain order, discipline and safety. We have as much to learn from you as we have to share with you," Morgenfeld said.
"The exposure of the military policeman and the American counterpart is an eye opener and this exchange will only enhance the experience of all," Maphoto added.
Learning to work together is incredibly valuable, said Sergeant Anthony Vignone, a Military Police Investigator in the New York National Guard's 727th Military Police Law and Order Detachment.
"To have multiple problems and one fighter in itself is a problem, but to have multiple fighters against one or more problems in itself is laying the foundation to overcome anything that comes your way, " LaVignone said.
NCIS Forensic Consultant, Special Agent David Reid spent two days conducting classes on forensic analysis. His training consisted of trace evidence collection techniques to process crime scenes, physical evidence handling and how to procure and maintain forensic equipment.
"I found the training to be more advanced with a focus on the outside world with emphasis on daily combat readiness, whereas, previous training has been deployment centric," said South African Sgt. Cecely Louw, who is assigned to the Southern Military Police Regional Headquarters Cape Town.
"To master your craft, expect the criminal to stay one step ahead," said New York National Guard Major Frank Quintana. "This, in turn, requires more learning and constant evaluation from a military policeman," he added.
Quintana was the lead exchange instructor for the training and serves as the New York National Guard State Partnership Program director.
"You can never be too careful when it applies to police work," he said.
"The capabilities the U.S made available in terms of training, experience and exposure is mutually beneficial and will continue to expand over the coming years," said South African Lt. Col. Jamie Bisschoff, Training Wing Commander for the SANDF Military Police School.