Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. --
“Get back, get back,” yelled the Marine through gritted teeth as his eyes begin to swell shut and tears run down his face.
He must keep control of himself and the rioting crowd while his face and eyes burn.
Marines with Lima Battery, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, were sprayed with oleoresin capsicum spray, commonly known as OC spray, during non-lethal weapons training at Stone Bay aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Feb. 9, 2011.
The Marines are sprayed to become familiar with the effects in case they are sprayed while conducting crowd control and to exercise restraint when choosing whether or not to spray someone else.
“I’m a little bit nervous,” said Cpl. Bobby R. Irish, a motor transport mechanic and Flint, Mich., native with Lima Battery, as it was his turn to get sprayed. “It will be good training.”
The Marines start with their back to an instructor from the Special Operations Training Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, with their eyes closed and holding their breath. They turn around and the instructor sprays them across the face with OC spray.
“It’s not as bad at first,” said Cpl. Bret S. Shockley, a Milford, Del., native and an artilleryman with Lima Battery.
The Marine then goes to his first station, arm manipulations. He grabs his baton and moves to the next station where he performs baton strikes on two Marines holding pads.
The Marine then moves on to arm manipulations using a baton, then to baton strikes on a punching bag. The final station is defense against a Marine wearing a large padded suit, wielding a baton.
Once the Marine defends himself and takes the attacker to the ground, his training is complete and can begin to wash his eyes and face with soap and water.
“Out of all the courses I’ve helped out with, they’ve done the best so far,” said Cpl. Kenneth A. Libby, a Cape Cod, Mass., native and rifleman with Special Operations Training Group who routinely assists the OC spray course.
While some Marines experience no reaction to the OC spray, most are not as lucky and experience an intense burning sensation.
“It’s worse than I expected; it’s like your face and eyes are on fire,” said Shockley. “Once it sets in, it feels like my face is on a skillet.”
With turmoil taking place in numerous countries around the world, these Marines could very well find themselves using these skills. They are preparing to deploy with a MEU, which can go anywhere in the world to conduct any number of missions requiring non-lethal tactics.
“It’s paramount that this is instructed to every Marine,” said Sgt. Roberto G. Gonzalez the armory chief with SOTG and a Marine on his way to become a non-lethal weapons course instructor. “The more you sweat, the less you bleed. Every Marine is a rifleman, but how good are you without your rifle?”
The OC spray is just a small part of the two-week course designed to teach these Marines how to use non-lethal tactics.
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are in the early stages of their pre-deployment training program, which is a series of progressively complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective Marine Air Ground Task Force.
The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and the Command Element.
Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response in a hostile or crisis environment. While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available to support the unit's operations abroad.