CORAL SEA, QLD, Australia -- From reinforcing an embassy besieged by hostile rioters to subduing an aggressive detainee, it is critical to have non-lethal means of dealing with the contingencies that the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit could face while embarked on the USS Wasp (LHD 1) as part of Amphibious Squadron 11. While the 31st MEU prides itself on being ready, partnered and lethal, lethal force is not necessarily the best course of action in every situation the MEU could face. Given this, the 31st MEU’s Law Enforcement Detachment is a key tool in the MEU Commander’s toolkit.
Some of the many unique capabilities and assets the Law Enforcement Detachment provides are non-lethal weapons employment and tactics, detainee handling, tactical site exploitation, and K-9 support. Of course, the detachment is also able to bring a lethal punch to operations, with experience in close-quarters battle tactics and mounted and dismounted patrols utilizing a variety of weapons from small arms to heavy machine guns.
While underway aboard the Wasp, whether they are in the well-deck conducting aggression training with their trusted military working dogs or simulating detainee operations in the brig, law enforcement Marines can be found hard at work honing their craft. Sgt. Arielle Lahtinen, noncommissioned officer in charge with the detachment, says that falling under the Command Element has given the detachment more exposure and a greater chance to reach more Marines with the unique training they can provide. A defensive tactics instructor, Lahtinen regularly teaches Marine Corps Martial Arts in the hangar bay, at least when she isn’t busy providing non-lethal weapons instruction to Marines by zapping them with a Conducted Energy Weapon, or TASER.
“[Non-lethal weapons training] is important because it broadens peoples’ perspectives. Grunts are taught all about lethality, but the law enforcement community utilizes an escalation of force continuum when it comes to subduing subjects in different situations,” said Lahtinen regarding the importance of the training the detachment offers on ship.
As the 31st MEU continues to take part in Talisman Sabre 2019, a bilateral, biennial event designed to improve U.S. and Australian interoperability, the detachment will be active participants in nearly every training exercise. Specifically, the detachment is keen to support as enablers on missions such as tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel, airfield seizures, and mechanized and boat raids. Whenever an objective is seized by the battalion landing team, the detachment has enablers who can conduct a tactical site exploitation of the objective – recovering hard drives, cell phones and documents that the S-2 can then exploit for follow-on operations.
Regardless of the mission, the detachment stands ready to offer their wide range of skills to accomplish the mission. When operating in today’s complex environments that characterize the Indo-Pacific region, the detachment serves as a multi-tool for the MEU Commander, according to Captain Steven Cox, Law Enforcement Integration Officer with the MEU.
“Our Military Police Marines are uniquely trained in lethality, professionalism and precision, and we take our job seriously,” said Cox. “The 31st MEU allows us the flexibility to employ our trade in the most effective way, and we truly embody the MAGTF concept in all we do. A Military Policeman can be employed in almost any mission across the MAGTF and be a huge contribution to overall mission accomplishment. We are constantly ready for the next mission.”