SAF Marines reinforce military police
CAMP FOSTER, OKINAWA, Japan -- From the moment Marines step on the yellow footprints at recruit training, it is etched into their brain to always be prepared to react accordingly to any threatening situation. This trait is exemplified by the Marines with the Security Augmentation Force.
The SAF supports the Provost Marshal’s Office in conducting security related operations during elevated force protection conditions and tropical cyclone conditions of readiness while also providing security at major events and exercises.
“We can be activated at the drop of a dime,” said Lance Cpl. Hannah McMullin, a hazardous material manager with the facilities engineer division and assigned to the SAF, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, Japan.
During typhoon season in Okinawa, the SAF is called upon to reinforce base law enforcement by augmenting gate sentries, performing random vehicle inspections and both roving and foot patrols. Along with acting as gate sentries, the Marines primary duty includes supplying additional security for up to 20,000 visitors during concerts and festivals throughout Okinawa such as Foster Fest and Friendship Saturday.
“It’s our job to be there to back up PMO. There are somethings that are too big for regular PMO to handle on their own. That’s where we come in,” said McMullin.
With the endless cycle of typhoons, major entertainment events and large scale exercises that the PMO supports, Camp Butler’s SAF is one of the most utilized SAF units in the entire Marine Corps, according to staff Sgt. John Albert, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge with the SAF.
“These Marines are working after every typhoon securing the gates and training alongside our Japanese counterparts in various exercises,” said Albert, a Highland, Indiana native. “It’s long hours and it’s all in addition to their normal Marine Corps duties.”
Marines either volunteer or are nominated by their work sections to participate in the SAF program. Once selected, the Marines are then subjected to an extensive screening process, where their mental, physical and moral strength are tested in ways similar to the screening process that Marines must complete for special duty assignments, according to Albert.
Once they pass the screening process, the candidates go through three grueling weeks of basic military law enforcement training. Students are instructed in handcuffing techniques, use of force, non-lethal techniques, and receive qualifying certification for the M1014 Shotgun and oleoresin capsicum, also known as OC spray.
“It’s the same exact training military police officers go through,” said McMullin, a Palmyra, Virginia, native. “Whenever we get activated, I can be confident that any SAF Marine here is more than qualified to accomplish whatever mission that’s given to us.”
As the Marine Corps in the Asia-Pacific region continues to grow as the world’s go-to crisis-response force, it will continue to rely on Marines from all around the Corps to go far beyond their regular duties to step up when duty calls.