MARINE CORPS BASE STONE BAY, N.C. --
What can bring a 6-foot muscled Marine crashing to his knees in a confused daze and completely debilitate them? Oleoresin capsicum, otherwise known as pepper spray, shot into the eyes.
Marines felt the burn here March 5, while being taught about the effects of pepper spray.
Marines with the Special Operations Training Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, sprayed Marines from various units with pepper spray during the Nonlethal Weapons and Tactics Course.
“Some of the Marines out here will make up a nonlethal unit, while some will be teaching these skills to others,” said Staff Sgt. Jeremy Gohl, nonlethal weapons and tactics chief instructor with SOTG. “The course basically prepares them to utilize the nonlethal technologies, such as pepper spray.”
The spray, which is entirely organic, is carried by Marines in many military occupational specialties as a form of nonlethal defense, for situations such as crowd control or riots. The training allows the Marines to use pepper spray, as well as feel its effects, so they understand how an adversary might feel.
A set of stations made up the course, and Marines had to complete different tasks including subduing opponents, protecting themselves and staying focused on the mission.
After being sprayed, the Marines ran to the first station, where they subdued an opponent using hand-to-hand tactics.
“We want them to realize you can still accomplish the mission after being sprayed,” said Seaman Michael Price, a hospital corpsman with SOTG. “If they can manage to keep their head on straight, they can remain focused on the task at hand.”
The second station was composed of two Marines holding large pads. As the Marine ran up, the two Marines circled him and tried to knock him around. They struggled to protect themselves from the assailants.
“I became extremely confused,” said Sgt. Frank Lopez, an infantry instructor for Marine Forces South, who was participating in the course. “I was thinking about being sprayed and how it burns instead of what I had to do.”
Next up was a blocking station. Marines had to successfully block an opponent’s strikes and strike back in the designated areas, such as thighs and shoulders. While many struggled to stay focused, a few showed no sign of extreme irritation and were able to pass the station easily.
“The pepper spray doesn’t affect everyone in the same way,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Raymond D. Munn, a corpsman with SOTG. “It is just like medicine. Everyone is different.”
A black punching bag was the next event on the course. The Marines hit the bag using specified baton techniques they learned during the training.
After successfully bringing an opponent to the ground at the last station, the Marines were escorted into a decontamination area to rest until the effects wore off.
The training was new for many of the Marines, and they were thankful to have the experience.
“It taught me how to react,” said Pfc. Kyle McAndrew, a cannoneer with Battery L, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. “I learned I could still hold myself together if I got sprayed.”