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U.S. Air National Guard Security Forces Defender uses his shield during a simulated protest at PATRIOT 24, Camp Shelby, Mississippi, Feb. 21, 2024. PATRIOT is a Domestic Operations disaster-response training exercise conducted by National Guard units working with federal, state and local emergency management agencies and first responders. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Shardae McAfee)

Camp Shelby, Mississippi. (February 21, 2024): In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, law and order breaks down and authorities must contain large, unruly crowds of sometimes desperate citizens. This duty falls to America’s National Guard and their civilian counterparts in police, firefighting, and medical services. In this photo by Airman 1st Class Shardae McAfee, an Air National Guard Security Forces Defender uses his shield during a simulated protest during PATRIOT 24, a domestic operations disaster-response training exercise held here.

Working with federal, state, and local emergency management agencies, military police units trained in the type of scenarios they will encounter when responding to a humanitarian crisis. National Guard troops practiced using a variety of non-lethal techniques and movement strategies to control or quell large crowds.

This year’s Patriot 24 exercise involved more than three hundred civilians, volunteers, and National Guard troops from twenty states who responded to a mock natural disaster featuring high winds, storm surges, collapsed buildings, and mass casualties. The training also addressed protest types and actions, legal considerations, and the responsibilities of mobile field force teams when using crowd-control methods.

The goal of military police is to use the least amount of force possible to disperse violent protesters without escalating the situation and to use firearms only as a last resort. The course included a series of hands-on activities such as baton-holding positions, riot control formations, and mass arrest procedures. Troopers are also schooled in the use of Riot Control Agents (RCAs) such as pepper spray or other types of tear gas to disperse crowds. These drills allow our National Guard forces to develop relationships and cooperation with local authorities to be ready in an emergency.

Camp Shelby serves as the primary training site for over 100,000 National Guard troops each year and is home to the 3rd Brigade, 87th Training Support.