Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
At 8 a.m. May 26, an inmate of the Joint Regional Correctional Facility “walked off” an outside grounds and maintenance work detail and “escaped.”
Post personnel, including the 15th Military Police Brigade, civilian MPs, the Fort Leavenworth Garrison and the 67th MP Detachment (Military Working Dog), Special Troops Battalion, searched for the missing inmate until the team of Spc. Richard Tossas and MWD?Hamed, a 6-year-old Belgian malinois, tracked the inmate to the NBC training chamber behind the Old U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, capturing him at 12:02 p.m.
Thus was the scenario that played out during the annual missing inmate exercise on Fort Leavenworth.
“We are a great asset. The military dog has a 100 times better nose than a human nose,” Tossas said. “If you have the dog available, why not use it? They’re trained in this type of scenario every week.”
Exercise observer/controllers noncommissioned officer-in charge Master Sgt. Nickie Wileman, 15th MP Brigade S3 sergeant major, said the exercise trains each entity in what to do if there was a real inmate escape.
“We have to be able to exercise and ensure that (standard operating procedures) are followed, so that if something does happen, they’re prepared for it,” Wileman said.
“The biggest intention of (today) is working on our communication, because we haven’t had good communication with all the outside entities before,” she said. “It is to see if those processes can work because there are so many moving parts.”
When an inmate escapes, both facilities — the USDB and JRCF — go on lockdown until it is determined which facility lost the inmate and the call is put in, Wileman said. Once a plan is established, it is relinquished to the battalions. On-post and off-post law enforcement agencies are notified and train traffic is stopped from travelling through the fort.
Because of COVID-19 precautions, the exercise was conducted as a tabletop exercise in 2020, so this was the first time several personnel were involved in such a large-scale exercise for an escaped inmate.
“There’s a lot more that goes into it than I originally thought,” said Spc. Rhett Magee, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, USDB. “There are different groups that go out, different stations, different jobs that have to be conducted.”
The exercise was also a first for 1st Lt. Daniel Loomer, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 15th MP Brigade, who portrayed the missing inmate.
“(Having an escaped inmate) is one of those scenarios that you never want to see the day come, but you’re kind of happy that you’re able to practice it, able to get these types of experiences, work out the kinks, learn from what happens … so that if the day ever does come, we’re prepared for it rather than … we have no idea what’s going on,” Loomer said. “(Portraying the inmate) is a great learning perspective for me (and) for my soldiers. I can see what the soldiers are doing, and I know exactly where I’m at and what they could’ve done at some points to actually catch me and end the exercise right there.
“Being in this role of inmate, there are just so many moving pieces in it that it’s easy for someone to say, ‘An inmate escaped, and we’re never going to find them,’ but there were five or six close calls that if it wasn’t for the fact that I knew the actual lay of the installation, I knew where I was going, (I would’ve been caught),” he said. “Thinking into the mind of the inmate, if it’s somebody that just got dropped in and the fear of everything just trying to get away and keep on moving, it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to actually try to get away … with the overwhelming response force that happened out there. … It’s not as easy as (the inmate) might think.”