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    17 December 2021, Op UNIFIER Military Police Training Group Officer Commanding Capt Nicole Behnke took part in a simulation of crowd control tactics by the candidates of the 25th Military Police Training Centre, in Lviv. (Photo by Cpl Melissa Gloude, Op UNIFIER Image Technician)

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    Op UNIFIER Military Police Training Group Capt Nicole Behnke and MWO Jason Rennie inspect some of the equipment use by the candidates of the 25th Military Police Training Centre, in Lviv, after their demonstration of crowd control tactics. (Photo by Cpl Melissa Gloude, Op UNIFIER Image Technician)

    Three soldiers inspect equipment on table



Op UNIFIER Military Police Training Group OC reflects on challenges, successes

By Cpl Melissa Gloude

Posted on Thursday March 25, 2021

The Military Police Training Group (MPTG) is embedded with Military Law and Order Service (MLOS) staff at the 25th Military Police Training Centre (25 MPTC) in Ukraine, as part of Operation UNIFIER.

“Our main role is to support them in bringing their institution, instruction, and approach to training more closely aligned with North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, standards,” says Captain Nicole Behnke, Officer Commanding (OC) MPTG.

“My main role is to be an accessible Canadian-to-NATO linkage for the MLOS and multinational partners to approach with any questions, queries, or requests for support they may have. From there, I coordinate what is required to best assist them.”

Captain Behnke joined the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Reserves in 2012 as a Communicator Research Operator while opting to further her education at Royal Military College of Canada (RMC).

“What motivated me to join were the values of the CAF and the opportunity to attend RMC to study Psychology and play for the Varsity Women’s Volleyball Team,” says Captain Behnke. “In 2014, I entered RMC’s Regular Officer Training Program as a Military Police Officer to continue my degree meanwhile fulfill my childhood goal of pursuing a career in law enforcement.”

After being posted to the Canadian Armed Forces Military Police Academy in 2019, Captain Behnke occupied the position of Officer Commanding Training Company. In September 2020, she deployed on Op UNIFIER as the OC of MPTG.

With the COVID-19 pandemic creating unique challenges for operational training environments during the Op UNIFIER’s 10th rotation, Captain Behnke says some of the biggest hurdles to accomplishing effective training during COVID-19 has been developing and fostering relationships with Canada’s multinational partners.

“Progressive gatherings such as Multinational Joint Commission Military Police Subcommittee meetings have turned virtual, and all face to face interactions have been conducted with masks. Travel restrictions reduce the number of subject matter experts who are able to participate in course writing boards,” says Captain Behnke. “I know this is a feeling mutual to the rest of the world, and we are all doing the best we can to still thrive in these uncertain times.”

With all the challenges that a global pandemic has brought, she says there have also been a multitude of successes with the MPTG this Rotation. Becoming a Partnership Training and Education Center (PTEC) is 25 MPTC’s goal, and there are many steps on what they call their ‘Path to PTEC.

“I believe our biggest success this rotation was gaining the Military Police NATO Discipline Head’s and the Requirement Authority’s approval that a course in “MP in Hybrid Warfare” meets a NATO need,” says Captain Behnke. “Ukrainians have first-hand experience defending against hybrid capabilities, where the adversary makes use of all strategic domains to target a spectrum of non-military ‘centres of gravity.’ Their lessons learned will undoubtedly be useful for NATO to capture.”

Going forward, MPTG along with Op UNIFIER Training Development Officers will assist the MLOS in the development of what will be their first ‘NATO Selected Course’ offered to the NATO community, and is a great first step on their ‘Path to PTEC.’ The MPTG was also able to secure an English Language Training contract for the instructors of 25 MPTC to expand on their vocabulary, as their course must be taught in one of the two official languages of NATO.

Captain Behnke believes that multinational support is crucial. In 2015, the Multinational Joint Commission Military Police Subcommittee (MJC MPSUBCOM) stood up to lead the MLOS through a Defence Policing Reform.

She says that since the inception of the MJC MPSUBCOM with a Canadian Co-Chair, and MPTG with Op UNIFIER, there have been massive successes to note.

“25 MPTC opened in 2017, and they have since hosted fifty serials of courses for MLOS members, some of which were taught by multinational MP subject matter experts on topics including: Use of Force (Canada), Investigations (Lithuania), K9 (Estonia), and more,” says Captain Behnke. They have also stood up a Standards Cell, and their instructors are fully self-sufficient in conducting their own ‘MP Basic Course’ and ‘MP Sergeant’s Course’ that were developed using the Systems Approach to Training.”

However, the future of the MPTG will be a short one: the training group will only exist for one more six-month rotation. In this time, the goal will be to bring the ‘MP in Hybrid Warfare’ NATO Selected Course to the conduct phase by October 2021, when R11 MPTG withdraws.

“By then, 25 MPTC’s Standards Cell will have the exposure and experience with all five phases of NATO’s Systems Approach to Training: Analysis, Design, Development, Conduct, Evaluation, and Validation,” says Captain Behnke. “With this knowledge, they will be able to continue developing, delivering, and improving on courses using some of NATO’s best practices.”

Since the beginning of the mission in 2015, it is clear that Canada’s multinational partners value Canadian support and presence, and the opportunity to work alongside Ukrainian professionals has been greatly beneficial for all CAF members involved in the process.