DEVENS — In a brief, but timeless ceremony Saturday, the Army Reserve reactivated a military police unit that had ceased to exist over 40 years ago.
The 382nd Military Police Battalion was first constituted on Oct. 28, 1944 during the waning months of World War II. Arriving in Europe at the conclusion of the war, the battalion provided security for railroads, first in France, then in Germany.
The battalion remained in service for the next 20 years and was deactivated in 1964 after nearly two decades of military downsizing.
With the war on terror, which began Sept. 11, 2001 when Islamic terrorists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the demands on the nation’s military increased.
America’s response began with the invasion of Afghanistan where the Al Qaeda terror network had its headquarters. It continued in Iraq. Although the war in Iraq ended relatively quickly, the tactical operations to battle insurgents and terrorists continue, as does the need for troops.
With the change in mission came a de-emphasis on combat troops and a larger role for military police forces, such as the 382nd Military Police Battalion, which must be prepared for any mission it is called upon to perform within a year of its activation.
“We’re going to be battle-focused,” said battalion commander Lt. Col. Jennifer Curry in a brief speech given at Saturday’s ceremony. “Our mission is to ensure stability. We have to make sure that the legal system (wherever the unit is stationed) is working. We have to make sure that some sort of order is maintained because without order there is only chaos and with chaos, a government cannot survive.”
Curry said when she received command of the 382nd, she was charged with preparing it to take on any mission it might be assigned.
Composed of about 20 percent new recruits, the majority of the 614 soldiers in the 382nd have been transferred from a number of other existing commands throughout New England, each with specific skill sets chosen to make a well rounded battalion.
Officially activated on Sept. 16, Curry said that the reason there were only about 50 soldiers present at Saturday’s ceremony was because most were in training at Devens and elsewhere.
In a welcoming speech Saturday, Brig. Gen. Glenn Lesniak, deputy commander of the 94th Regional Readiness Command, of which the 382nd is a part, expressed his confidence in Curry to “strengthen (the battalion’s) war fighting readiness.”
“The core of any army organization is its soldiers,” said Lesniak. With those words he underlined the symbolism in the reactivation ceremony wherein the battalion’s flag was handed into the keeping of an ordinary soldier after it had been first presented to Curry and freed from its protective slipcase.
For her part, Curry recognized the awesome responsibility that had been given into her hands and characterized her job as a daunting task.
Curry said she drew confidence in the soldiers’ faith in how the system works and was determined to be more dedicated as a result.
“My commitment is solely to the soldiers who are assigned to this company,” said Curry. “We’ll work tirelessly to make sure you are prepared to go.”
Curry did not forget the families of servicemen and vowed that training for the 382nd would be such that it would maximize the safety of individual soldiers while making the unit ready to handle any mission it might be asked to perform.