Before military police Soldiers can graduate the Advanced Individual Training portion of One Station Unit Training at Fort Leonard Wood, they are required to pass a two-day class in battlefield forensics.
“Battlefield forensics is important to military police Soldiers as it directly reinforces the rule of law when conducting operations to collect and preserve evidence in a combat environment,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Beaver, Basic Military Police Training Division instructor.
Battlefield forensics is the last portion of Military Police Advanced Individual Training before the final training exercise.
The training builds on an introductory class about protecting a crime scene, the Soldiers get during week three. Using the skills covered in that class, students have a foundation for battlefield forensics, said Staff Sgt. Robert Peppard, Basic Military Police Training Division instructor.
“The purpose behind battlefield forensics is to collect evidence on the battlefield,” he said. “The biggest thing we are looking at is them being able to process the evidence as well as fingerprints.”
Collecting the evidence is only part of the lesson. Speed is also important, Beaver said.
“Over the two-day period of instruction, we are attempting to teach a Soldier to focus on prioritizing and processing evidence with the most significance, and doing so in an expedited, but proficient manner,” he said.
During the battlefield forensics class, Soldiers receive a three-and-a-half-hour block of instruction on the use of biometric tools, the procedures for identification and collection of evidence, developing and photographing of latent fingerprints, the documentation of a crime scene through photography and getting a rough sketch.
Following the classroom portion, Soldiers take part in a five-hour, hands-on practical exercise involving all areas taught, followed by an individual hands-on performance evaluation.
“Soldiers today benefit greatly from a hands-on learning environment,” Beaver said. “The Power Point presentations we use greatly help in a transfer of knowledge, but the hands-on training further drives home the topic and importance by putting the elements directly in front of a trainee.”
One Soldier who recently completed the training said the hands-on aspect helped him retain the information better, and made learning more enjoyable than just being lectured.
“Battlefield forensics is one of my favorites, because it is more hands on than ‘death by Power Point’,” Pvt. Torry Sexton, Company C, 787th MP Battalion, said jokingly.
Soldiers who complete the performance evaluation successfully, get to participate in a culminating event where they conduct battlefield forensics as a group in a mock-combat environment.
In the scenario, Soldiers are dispatched to a simulated site that contains many aspects of a real-world environment. Some of these items have evidentiary or intelligence value, while some items do not, Beaver said. The teams are expected to demonstrate what they have learned by determining which items to process or collect and acting accordingly as a member of a team.
Pvt. Richard Hinson, Company C, 787th MP Bn., said the key to completing battlefield forensics is attention to detail.
“You have to stay calm and have a lot of attention to detail,” he said. “You need to notice the small things, keep your eyes open and don’t get anxious or frustrated and over think it.”