MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Get back, get back, get down! A Marine stood on the muddy football field while the morning’s dew filled the air. An instructor pointed a canister at him with a chemical agent meant to disarm an opponent. Fists clenched, the Marine mentally prepared for what was next.
The Marine fought to maintain focus as the oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray forced an intense burning sensation deep in his eyes and skin.
The Marines of 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, learned multiple tactics during a non-lethal weapons course taught by 1st Law Enforcement Bn. at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 26, 2016.
In addition to being sprayed with OC, Marines learned various techniques such as lower and upper body strikes and take-down control techniques. They also learned riot control and detainee handling.
“This kind of training will help all of us because it will allow us to work closely with other units that have this training,” said Cpl. Tyler Graves, a combat engineer and squad leader with Company B, 1st CEB, and native of Peoria, Illinois. “Being able to deploy with Marines that already have this knowledge will allow us to provide assistance should a non-lethal weapon situation arise.”
Law enforcement Marines also taught the students how to recognize possible mob situations and the best way to handle each scenario.
“Having this knowledge allows them to start implementing crowd control techniques that we teach during the course,” said Sgt. Shane Jacopin, a military policeman and instructor of the course.
The combat engineers learned certain commands and had to demonstrate their understanding of each movement and explain the purpose to successfully complete that portion of the course.
“The movements we teach them can be used in multiple situations, but are mainly used when reinforcing an embassy,” said Jacopin, a native of Columbus, Ohio. “We make sure we give them this information so they can be prepared for anything.”
While the Marines conducted riot control training, they were explained about situations in which OC spray might be used.
“This training not only gives them an understanding of different methods to control a crowd, but it also gives them a better understanding of the employment of non-lethal weapons such as the OC spray,” said Capt. Paul Hutchinson, the company commander for Co. B, 1st CEB.
Communication is key when it comes to riot control.
“The Marines need to be listening for the next command from their platoon sergeant,” said Jacopin. “After they hear the command, they yell it out in order to make sure everyone is on the same page.”
Riot control can have a psychological effect on the mob, according to Jacopin. The point is to make the mob hear the Marines coming. When people see a large group of Marines coming with shields, OC spray and possibly an M203 grenade launcher loaded with non-lethals, that by itself may be enough to make a crowd scatter.
The training is not limited to infantry personnel and participation in the non-lethal weapons course can add to a unit’s arsenal of skills.
“Think of it as a force multiplier,” said Jacopin. “If you are attached to a unit that uses these techniques and you know this stuff, not only are you able to accomplish your assigned mission, but now you are also able to help the unit accomplish their mission, especially if that mission involves embassy reinforcement.”
Hutchinson, a native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, said this training arms his Marines with skills necessary to accomplish any mission on their upcoming deployment. They completed the course with a wealth of knowledge and the confidence needed to be successful at any embassy.