Conspicuous patrol cars prowl the streets of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. (JBM-HH) all day, everyday.
MPs spend their days making sure people are aware of their presence, and are ready to take any necessary action to protect the public and service members of JBM-HH.
Sgt. Timothy Ketchum has manned a Military Police cruiser as a member of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment’s (The Old Guard) 289th Military Police Company for two and a half years.
Riding in between gates on JBM-HH, Fort McNair and D.C. and any emergency calls, Ketchum’s job today as a rover is to assist where he is needed.
A call comes over the radio, “We have a medical emergency.” A 13-year old female is experiencing symptoms of heat stroke.
Ketchum takes a right into the Tri-Service parking lot and accelerates to the nearest gate separating Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) and JBM-HH.
Upon arriving to the ANC visitor center, shortly before fire rescue but just behind the paramedics, Ketchum takes a position near the scene. Ketchum needs to be far enough to avoid interrupting the paramedics doing their work. MPs have to respect the privacy of the patient and abide by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPPA) guidelines.
While ANC does employ civilian security, MPs respond to assist and secure the area.
The most common calls, especially during the hot Virginia summer afternoons, are heat related injuries.
On extraordinarily hot days MPs can respond to half a dozen calls before noon, said Ketchum.
Most of the time the victims of heat stroke, exhaustion or cramps are children on school trips. MPs make a record of the report so worried parents calling for information can be advised of what hospital they were taken to.
The paramedics take the teen away, and Ketchum returns to his patrol.
During an 8-hour shift, officers perform tasks like providing over watch of gates and running checks on people trying to come onto the installation. In addition to calls from ANC, one of their primary duties is to be a visible presence.
Ketchum said most calls from JBM-HH are to the gates.
“Registration, tags, drivers licenses,” Ketchum said. “That’s actually where we get most of our drunk driving and drugs is from people who made a wrong turn.”
The 8-hour shift begins at 6 am. The day shift will do physical training (PT) after their shift is completed at 2 p.m. most days.
There are three shifts total, a swing shift that takes over at 2 p.m. and works until 10 p.m., and a night shift that works from 10 p.m.- 6 am. MPs will cycle through the day, swing and night shifts every three months.
The 289th served in World War II and Korea before being deactivated in 1955.
289th Police Company joined The Old Guard in 1994.
Becoming a police officer has been an aspiration for Ketchum since high school.
Ketchum’s mother insisted he volunteer at the Manassas Battle Fields to, “give him a taste of manual labor,” he said.
“I foiled her because I liked it,” said Ketchum. “The ranger I worked with was a law enforcement ranger, so after that I knew I was going into the Army, that was a forgone conclusion for me. I walked into the recruiter and said ‘I want to be an MP.’”
First enlisting in 1993, Ketchum served five years before leaving the Army and working as a civilian police officer until returning to military service in 2007.
Ketchum has worked as both a MP and a civilian police officer. He says there are similarities, but vast differences.
“They are exactly the same, and then completely different,” said Ketchum. “We do the same exact job, only on a smaller scale depending on where you’re at. Larger installations its like working in a city.”
For MPs at JBM-HH, being well versed in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. and Army Regulations is a necessity.
“In D.C. I can arrest you for driving on a suspended license,” said Ketchum. “But in Virginia, its a citation to appear in court. Your car will need to be towed or someone can pick it up.”
MPs must share a variety of jurisdictions that are close enough to run on adjacent streets.
The MP’s share space with the U.S. Park Police, Arlington County and the Pentagon.
The web of agency responsibility can sometimes make for strange circumstances.
Ketchum said there was once an incident where a drunk driver pulled over to the side of the road to sober up, off post. The driver put his chair back, but didn’t place his car in park. The driver ended up rolling through an intersection at Second Street and into a concrete planter on post.
The crime was committed off post, but rolled into the MPs jurisdiction.
“There are benefits to both,” said Ketchum. “Civilian law enforcement you are paid for your time, your eight hour shift anything over you are compensated for.”
“MP, you are paid what you are paid. The paperwork process is much more in depth in the Army then the civilian world,” Ketchum said. “But then like military benefits are so much better, GI bill, tuition assistance, it equals out.”
Ketchum was deployed to Afghanistan in May of 2011.
While deployed, Ketchum mostly provided armed escort.
Growing up in the National Capital Region, Ketchum hopes to eventually earn a position with the Ft. Myer Provost Marshal’s Office as a civilian.
Near the end of his shift, Ketchum responds to another emergency at the ANC visitor’s center.
A suspicious package left in a restroom has been reported. MPs responded immediately by evacuating and clearing the building.
Bomb detection K9s didn’t find any suspicious packages.
Ketchum said the owner of the bag may have retrieved it before it had been reported.
Within minutes, MPs were able to safely reopen the center for people. The rest of the shift ends without incident.