Face of Defense: Soldier Sharpens Tactical Skills

CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE WARRIOR, Iraq, Aug. 9, 2011 — Kneel­ing next to the exit ramp, Army Spc. Luz Natalia Gon­za­lez read­ied her M249 squad auto­mat­ic weapon. As the vehi­cle halt­ed on a crowd­ed street in Kirkuk, Iraq, Gon­za­lez emerged and scanned the area before sig­nal­ing oth­er per­son­nel to exit the vehi­cle and move into a near­by police sta­tion.

Army Spc. Luz Natalia Gon­za­lez enters a vehi­cle after con­duct­ing secu­ri­ty oper­a­tions out­side a police sta­tion in Kirkuk, Iraq, July 31, 2011.
U.S. Army pho­to by Staff Sgt. Robert DeDeaux
Click to enlarge

Due to the demand­ing oper­a­tional tem­po of her mil­i­tary police pla­toon, Gon­za­lez, assigned to the “Pun­ish­ers” Provin­cial Police Tran­si­tion Team, 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Divi­sion, mas­tered her tac­ti­cal skills while on her first deploy­ment in sup­port of Oper­a­tion New Dawn.

“As a sol­dier, being a Pun­ish­er has made me who I am today,” said Gon­za­lez, who hails from Prov­i­dence, R.I. “I nev­er thought I would be this good this ear­ly, and I know I owe that to the expe­ri­ences I’ve had being in this pla­toon.”

Gon­za­lez pro­gressed quick­ly through the MP ranks despite hav­ing less than two years of ser­vice. Con­duct­ing mul­ti­ple mis­sions into the city each week, Gon­za­lez said the mis­sions she per­forms in the Pun­ish­er pla­toon devel­op her as a sol­dier.

“She was a lit­tle timid a first,” said Army Pfc. Renee Cum­mings, a fel­low Pun­ish­er and gun­ner from the Bay Area, Calif. “She came off as shy, but as the mis­sions con­tin­ued, she real­ly showed her aggres­sive side.”

Army Staff Sgt. Richard Med­i­na, an MP squad leader, said he saw poten­tial in Gon­za­lez. “When she came to my squad, I made her my dri­ver,” he said. “It’s a big respon­si­bil­i­ty, but I knew she could han­dle it.”

When on the ground, Gon­za­lez must han­dle com­mu­ni­ca­tions among Med­i­na, the pla­toon, the gun­ner and the rest of the con­voy. Sev­er­al months ago, Med­i­na said, he got to see for him­self that Gon­za­lez was ready for any chal­lenge.

“On a rou­tine vis­it, we came upon [a road­side bomb] on one of the routes,” he said. “There was a lot of con­fu­sion between civil­ians and the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces already present, so I dis­mount­ed to assess the sit­u­a­tion, leav­ing Gon­za­lez to relay the com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“She had to keep me informed as to what the gun­ner saw and updat­ed every­one else on what was going on, all while ensur­ing the con­voy was moved to a safe dis­tance,” Med­i­na con­tin­ued. “She was calm and clear; she kept a lev­el head. I knew then she was a sol­dier that could be trust­ed with greater respon­si­bil­i­ty.”

Pun­ish­ers con­duct week­ly train­ing sem­i­nars and crime scene inves­ti­ga­tion class­es, pro­vide guid­ance and assis­tance to their Iraqi coun­ter­parts and meet with police chiefs and oth­er law enforce­ment indi­vid­u­als.

Gon­za­lez said she con­ducts patrols and deals with the same dan­gers as infantry sol­diers.

“I’m just like any and every oth­er Pun­ish­er,” she said. “Despite the dif­fi­cul­ties of the mis­sion at hand, I know I have to do my part so every­one else can do theirs.”

Army Lt. Col. Stephen Hugh­es, chief of the Provin­cial Police Tran­si­tion Team, said he’s impressed with the unit’s MPs. “They have all of the sol­dier skills you would find in an infantry unit, but they also have law enforce­ment train­ing and are pre­pared to fight like infantry­men.”

Despite the rig­or­ous mis­sion require­ments, Gon­za­lez said, she is grate­ful for every­thing she learned dur­ing this deploy­ment.

“I always knew I would come into the Army,” she said with a smile, “and I’m glad my first expe­ri­ence was as a Pun­ish­er.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →