Program Promotes Partnership, Keeps Soldiers Safe
Mollie Miller - Tue 03:24 PM 08/14/2012
As the neon of a nearby sign bathed him in a hazy yellow glow and turned the big number one on his shoulder into something more orange than red, Lt. Jonathan Woislaw looked at the young man in front of him and politely said, “We are here to keep you safe.”
The words were greeted with a smile and a thank you, as they had been more than a dozen times on the evening of July 14 when visitors to Manhattan’s popular entertainment district, Aggieville, inquired what Soldiers in uniform were doing there so late. The answers were easy to give for Woislaw and the three other 1st Infantry Division Soldiers who walked the streets of Aggieville that night as part of the “Big Red One’s” Courtesy Patrol Program.
“This is all about taking care of Soldiers,” Sgt. 1st Class Terrence Thomas, Division Provost Marshal senior noncommissioned officer (rear), said of the CP Program. “This is about keeping them safe and getting them home safely.”
The 1st Inf. Div. CP Program teams the division’s young leaders with representatives from the Riley County Police Department every Friday and Saturday night to “ensure a safe and secure environment” for Soldiers who visit the four block area of Manhattan that is home to nearly three dozen bars and clubs. The Soldiers who walk the Courtesy Patrol beat in Aggieville are asked to use their interpersonal communication skills to defuse tense situations and help reduce off-post incidents which may have a negative impact on the welfare and safety of the BRO’s Soldiers.
“A lot of what goes on during the patrols is problem solving,” RCPD Lieutenant Mark French said. “The CP teams work to take care of issues before they blossom into something criminal, destructive or dangerous.”
Capt. DeAndrei Drummond, a representative from the division’s Judge Advocate General’s office, offers every Soldier who goes out on the Courtesy Patrol training on a variety of legal topics pertaining to what they can and cannot do while in Aggieville. Drummond said although there are several laws that dictate that the courtesy patrol representatives take a very passive stance, the goodness of the program lies in the young leaders and their ability to use “moral persuasion” to get someone to start using common sense before a situation gets out of control.
“Sometimes, a conversation with someone in uniform might be enough to stop someone from making a horrible mistake,” he said.
Col. Jeffery Broadwater, the commander of the 1st Inf. Div.’s 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, walked the CP beat in Aggieville on a Friday night in early July. The brigade commander, who participated in courtesy patrol programs in Germany when he was a young lieutenant, said there are many great benefits to having CP teams in Aggieville on Friday and Saturday nights. In addition to enhancing relationships within Manhattan and throughout the RCPD, Broadwater said the program allows leaders to be visible to their Soldiers and show them that they do indeed care about their well being.
“Numerous Soldiers stopped and talked to me and really appreciated the fact that the leaders were present and available to assist if a situation dictated,” he said.
Soldiers and RCPD representatives are not the only ones praising the division’s new program. Aggieville business owner Brett Allred said he was happy to have the Soldiers joining the police on Friday and Saturday nights.
“This is a good thing,” he said. “The presence certainly makes things safer in the streets.”
Although courtesy patrols have come and gone from Aggieville many times during the past several years, the current iteration of the program has only been in place for about two months.
“This is something we have always wanted,” French said. “This Courtesy Patrol has much more direction provided to it than any I have seen in the past.”
In total, more than 100 of the division’s junior officers and noncommissioned officers will walk the Aggieville beat as part of the CP Program in the coming months. The time in Aggieville, according to CP organizers, is an important part of their development as leaders within the division as they gain insights into the city of Manhattan as well as open relationships and lines of communication with community members and local law enforcement representatives.
“The program promotes the growth of our future leaders as it allows them to see where their Soldiers are spending their off-time and gives them an opportunity to prevent things that could have negative consequences for our Soldiers or for the community,” Broadwater said.
Although hesitant to comment on exact statistics, both RCPD and 1st Inf. Div representatives say the number of Aggieville incidents involving Solders are going in the right direction. French said the real test of the program will come when the students return to Kansas State University this fall and the Aggieville population grows exponentially. For the time being, however, French is happy with the program and with how far the Army has come in the realm of caring for Soldiers and for the communities that support them.
“At the beginning of the war, there were nights when we would arrest 12 guys from the same unit because they would come home from a year in Iraq on a Thursday and be out drinking in Aggieville on Friday,” the RCPD lieutenant said. “The Army is doing things a lot smarter today … that I am sure of.”