[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                         July 25, 2008

ECP important for success 
during combat operations

By Tom Michele, The Real McCoy Contributor

      Gaining access to an assembly area, where Soldiers congregate to prepare to do battle, to eat and sleep, to store weapons, to communicate, to recover from injuries, to report to headquarters, to return to after battle, hasn't changed much in thousands of years.

Photo: Personnel from the 341st Engineer Company of Barling, Ark., stand guard duty at the entry control point of Contingency Operating Location Freedom at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Tom Michele)
Personnel from the 341st Engineer Company of Barling, Ark., stand guard duty at the entry control point of Contingency Operating Location Freedom at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Tom Michele)

      But the entry control point (ECP) still is a very important item on the mobilization training schedule for Soldiers preparing for deployment to a combat theater of operations.

      "The entry control point is exactly what it says it is," Staff Sgt. Steve Bliss said. "You control everything that comes in and everything that goes out, whether it is  just a hastily constructed assembly area or something that has been there for years."

      "But entry control points are in a particular location and operated there because they save lives," Bliss said. "That is the importance."

      Bliss is an observer-controller-trainer with the 1st, 338th Training Support Battalion, 181st Infantry Brigade. The brigade, with its other three training support battalions, conducts the mobilization training at Fort McCoy.

      "Some Soldiers haven't been in a combat environment," Bliss said. "So, when they leave after the mob training at Fort McCoy to deploy overseas, they will have a general understanding of how an entry control point works, what to expect and what to do when they are assigned to any of these tasks."

      "We teach a general guideline," Bliss said. "We train Soldiers to Army standards. But those standards may be different from country to country. So, as the standards and training changes, the Army's training and standards change. It occurs all the time."

      What doesn't change is still one or more Soldiers positioned at a location where pedestrian and vehicle traffic must pass through a gate system to gain entry to a specific area.

      Those Soldiers still must keep their eyes and ears very wide open, observant to any change in or on the landscape, particularly if that change may be or is a threat to the assembly area and the people and material in that area.

      Soldiers are taught what to look for and how to look for it, and then how to react to any of dozens and dozens of situations, including threats and violence.

      Soldiers inspect people and vehicles for any sort of explosives and weapons hidden in the vehicle or hidden on a person's body.

      "The entry control point is the first line of defense between the people of the surrounding areas and our operating area," Bliss said.

      Bliss also noted the time it may take for an inspection, vehicle or personnel, "has no time limit. It takes as long as it takes, whatever number of minutes, even if the person or the vehicle have been in the assembly area a thousand times before. They get thoroughly inspected every time."

      ECP training is given to Soldiers of every rank because every Soldier could be assigned to ECP duty, including officers, Bliss said. It is very common to see a colonel standing next to a private during instruction and exercise time.

      The trainers use Opposing Forces (OPFOR) personnel to inject realistic action. One scenario, for example, involves the OPFOR people uncovering a weapon hidden in or under their clothing and then opening fire on the Soldiers. Blank ammunition, simulated hand grenades, artillery simulators and other simulated devices are available for use.

      Another training aid used to incorporate realism into the ECP training is the civilians on the battlefield (COBs), people dressed as local Iraqi or Afghan villagers, wandering around the area or into the ECP, attempting to gain entry.

      Some of those COBs are "friendly," some aren't. Some carry hidden weapons or explosives.

      The training Soldiers must detect, identify, inspect, confirm, detain and counter-act for each situation.

      Bliss said this training pertains to male and female personnel and all of the armed forces branches. It's not just the Army anymore at an entry control point. Air Force and Navy personnel also go through mobilization training at Fort McCoy as those personnel serve alongside their Army brothers and sisters in many theaters of U.S. involvement.

(Michele is a public affairs specialist for Eagle Systems and Services Inc., contractor for CONUS Support Base Services.)


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