Montana reserve unit soldiers serve in police blue and Army green
By Master Sgt. Ryan C. Matson
652nd Regional Support Group
HELENA – Teamwork. Comraderie. Adventure. A variety of missions, with no two days the same.
These are the things that attracted 1st Lt. Jacob Ahmann, already a military veteran, to seek out a job in law enforcement.
“I think the crossover from the military to law enforcement is kind of natural,” Ahmann said. “There’s the desire for community service piece, and then there’s the adventure – just like they say no two days in the Army are the same, you can never forecast what you’re going to be doing as a police officer. You always start in patrol, but from there you can go canine, or maybe be a detective, or chose your own adventure.”
In the 652nd Regional Support Group, an Army Reserve unit out of Helena, Montana, with the mission of providing base operations support, Ahmann is far from alone when it comes to serving in police and military uniforms. Ahmann, an intelligence officer who previously served as the 652nd’s company commander, is one of nine other Soldiers who work in law enforcement as his civilian job. That group includes sheriff’s deputies, detention officers, city police, SWAT team members, Montana Highway Patrol officers, and even a border agent. It includes enlisted Soldiers, warrant and commissioned officers. Ahmann serves as a field training officer and Special Response Team officer with the Bozeman, Montana, police department.
Ahmann was attending his officer basic course with a classmate who was a Miami, Florida, police officer. He was fascinated with all the wild stories of the things the officer had seen and done on the job and decided to apply himself.
Another of the unit’s Soldiers who went from the military into law enforcement is Staff Sgt. Christopher Sturgill, a sheriff’s deputy with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, in Montana.
Sturgill’s path into law enforcement was a bit less direct than Ahmann’s, but still ended with the same result. He enlisted and spent ten years as a mechanic, and then a couple as a human resources specialist. In the meanwhile, he took civilian schooling to work toward becoming a nurse, or medical professional, but never found his calling until he became a military police officer.
“I had a really good friend who was reclassing into the 652nd as an MP, and I decided to join him,” Sturgill recalled. “We went to Fort Custer, Michigan, for a month to reclass, and it was one of the best schools I ever went to.”
“I guess it’s just a calling,” Sturgill said. “Just the ability to help. It doesn’t have to be a crisis situation. It could just be somebody who is stuck on the side of the road, or needs directions, or just needs somebody to talk to.”
Sturgill, from Virginia City, Montana, is a Deputy in the same rural county – Madison County - he grew up in.
“It can be a little weird, since I’ve known a lot of these people my entire life,” Sturgill admitted. “They don’t treat me a whole lot differently now, although when I first started up they did.”
Being a known fixture of the town also benefit his law enforcement career. The people know he cares about the citizens of the county and is committed to their safety. In short, the people of the county trust him.
“I’ve had several people tell me they’re more likely to come to me because they know who I am and I’m very approachable,” Sturgill said. “Some of my old friends still live in town and have kids about the same age. You’re a presence there, but you’re also a part of the community. People come up to you, talk to you, ask you questions and tell you things to keep an eye on.
Unlike Ahmann in the city, Sturgill and another deputy cover a rural county in Southwestern Montana that is several hundred square miles. This presents a unique set of challenges. For example, Sturgill may have to respond to calls 70 miles away as safely and expediently as possible. While he responds to the same gamut of crimes any officer in the U.S. would, being an officer in a rural county in Montana presents a unique set of challenges. He said he often responds to stranded motorist calls and wildlife calls. He must be prepared to spend his night in his police truck if need be.
Whether in the city of Bozeman or the rural mountains of Madison County, the Soldiers who serve as civilian law enforcement officers in the 652nd RSG are truly never off duty. They serve 24-7, regardless of the uniform they wear.