Las Vegas Sun

July 28, 2014

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New military police unit ready to serve

When the green and gold guidon of the 313th Military Police Detachment is unfurled during a noon ceremony Sunday, the newest unit of the U.S. Army Reserve will be born in Las Vegas.

But it will be a birth in troubled times, as many of its 54 members -- mostly local police, security officers and other law enforcement personnel -- could be deployed as early as Monday for a six-month to two-year stint in the wake of U.S. retaliatory strikes against the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We are excited because this is the introduction of a new unit into the Army and because we may be called upon by our country to do what we have been trained to do," Sgt. Patty Baiocchetti, the ranking sergeant in the unit, said.

"No one relishes going to war, but if you ask us if we are ready to go to Afghanistan, we'll say yes. If it's somewhere else to serve in support of regular Army units that are sent to the front, it won't be as exciting, but it will be just as important an assignment."

"The likelihood is high" that the new unit will be deployed, Baiocchetti said, given the efforts under way to root out terrorists responsible for the attacks on New York City and Washington that left more than 5,000 dead or missing.

But the unit has not received, nor has it been told, about any pending orders, said Baiocchetti, 38, an Army veteran of 11 years who now works full time for Wackenhut, the Nevada Test Site's security firm.

The new unit is composed of about 80 percent prior regular Army or reservists who served as infantry soldiers, engineers, mechanics and in other military occupational specialties. The remaining 20 percent are new to the military.

The 313th is the state's only Reserve military police unit. The Nevada National Guard's 72nd Military Police, Nevada's only MP Guard unit, was deployed to an undisclosed domestic location earlier this month.

Military police units usually have a pretty straightforward job, said Sgt. Nelson Valdez, 33, the only regular Army sergeant assigned to the 313th.

"A military base is like a city, and the military police are the equivalent of the city's cops," said Valdez, a veteran of 11 years of active duty. "The MPs patrol, investigate crimes, investigate traffic accidents, make traffic stops -- pretty much do what police do."

But their missions can lead them into direct combat.

"I was on the front line during the Persian Gulf War," said Sgt. Patrick King, 31. "I was one of 22 MPs who were dropped off by helicopter to walk behind the tanks with the infantry and clean up pockets of resistance."

While potential deployment to a combat zone would be a first for Baiocchetti, both Valdez and King saw action not only in Saudia Arabia, but also in Somalia.

"Minutes after we landed in Somalia, there was a firefight at the airport," said King, a father of two. "You never know what to expect, but you depend on the training you receive to respond to any situation."

Members of the Reserve spend one weekend per month and two weeks per year in training.

The payoff for the 313th will come on Sunday, when they gather at Ryland Taylor Hall, 2901 E. Sahara Ave., clad in their dress greens, their left arms adorned with the teardrop olive patch depicting blood on the tip of a sword surrounded by fire -- the symbol of their 63rd Regional Support Command.

Among those expected to attend the activation ceremony are Col. Donna Dacier, deputy commanding officer of the 63rd RSG, Capt. Howard Murphy III, the incoming commander of the unit, and Provost Marshal Maj. Kelly Wakefield, who in effect is the police chief of the unit.

Others expected to participate include Col. Mark Earley, commander of the 653rd Area Support Group, and Command Sgt. Maj. Gene DiLorenzo, also of the 653 ASG.

When the pomp and circumstance ends, the troops will be what they call "deployable."

"If I get the call, I am confident that the training I have received will get me through and that I will be able to use the experience I have to help others," Valdez said.

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