What Is a Military Police Officer?
Military police officers, also known as MPs, are a special division of military personnel who are responsible for handling the duties of ordinary police in military settings, such as military bases. They may also become involved when members of the US military commit crimes while outside the confines of a military base, working with local police to solve those crimes. Military police exist within all branches of the United States military, although they may go by slightly different names, such as security forces in the Air Force or Master-at-Arms in the Navy.
The job description for military police includes duties such as directing traffic, responding to emergencies, and conducting criminal investigations. They may also be tasked with maintaining the security of the military installation in which they are stationed, which typically means preventing unauthorized access by civilians. As one might expect, the skills needed for military police can translate well to jobs as a civilian police officer after leaving the military.
How to Become a Military Police Officer
Becoming a member of the military police will require meeting certain metrics and undergoing intensive training. Individuals who aspire to be military police would be well advised to prepare adequately before attempting to join their desired branch. One possible option to help prepare is to take online classes in law enforcement or criminal justice.
Step 1: Meet Basic Requirements
Before applicants may even be considered for jobs as military police, they must meet all the basic requirements to join the military. While physical and aptitude requirements will vary somewhat depending on the branch of the military, other requirements are more universal. Applicants must be 18 years old (or 17 with parental permission) before they can join and typically no older than 34 (39 in the Air Force). They also must generally have a clean criminal background check, no substantial debt, and have no history of mental illnesses. Military police must also have valid driver's licenses.
Some branches will have additional requirements, such as a high school diploma or equivalent. Be sure to check the requirements in your desired branch before committing; military recruiters may be able to assist you in meeting these requirements and securing your preferred role. For those still in high school, a Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program may be beneficial in reaching requirements.
Step 2: Take the ASVAB
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is a series of tests designed to determine a new recruit's abilities in certain fields, with the goal of placing them in the position where the military can best make use of their skills. This test can be taken before committing to enlist, and individuals with a strong job preference may wish to do so to ensure they obtain their desired results. For example, in the Army, a score of 91 in the Skilled Technical department is necessary to qualify for a position as military police, so those with aspirations of joining this field may want to ensure they can reach that score before taking the test for real.
Step 3: Complete Training
As a new recruit to the military, it will be necessary to complete your branch's equivalent to basic training. Basic training typically takes between 7 and 9 weeks and will be intensive, both physically and mentally. Basic training is done at different areas across the country for each branch. After completing your basic training, you will begin to tailor your training towards your eventual job in the military--in this case, military police. Military police training can take another 9 weeks, although these two training sessions will likely have a small break between them. In the Navy, for example, Master-at-Arms training takes place at 'A' school in San Antonio, where the new members of law enforcement will learn about standing watch, anti-terrorism techniques, firearms training, and first aid.
Step 4: Military Police Work and Continued Education
Once both sets of training are completed, you may be presented with options as to where you would prefer to be stationed, and begin working as military police. As mentioned above, military police generally work on bases and other armed forces installations, which means you may be stationed stateside or abroad. As you serve, you may be presented with promotion opportunities and additional training options. Individuals who've joined the military without a college degree may also be able to earn a degree through use of the GI Bill, and some work and training may count towards college prerequisites, particularly at military-friendly colleges. For those who intend to remain in law enforcement after leaving the military, a degree in forensics or criminal justice may be recommended, as some police departments prefer candidates with degrees.
Military Police Salary and Career Info
Like all members of the armed forces, military police are paid a base salary that is determined by their rank (pay grade) and experience level. While ranks have different names depending on your branch, each rank corresponds to a pay grade, which is standardized across all services. The minimum annual pay for the lowest enlisted pay grade (E-1) is $20,170.80 as of 2019. However, few recruits will stay at the lowest rank for long. Additionally, military base pay is often supplemented by other benefits, such as free on-base housing and low-cost medical care, which reduce the need for a large cash income. Base pay can also be adjusted with bonuses, incentive pay to work in particular locations, or hazard pay.