Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., --
Here’s a riddle. How can something that forces one’s eyes to close – cause them to open as well?
If you saw the look on Lance Cpl. Brandon Murdock’s face during a recent training event at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., – his eyes screwed tightly shut, his ashen face twisted into a mask of determined suffering – you might begin to see a clue to the riddle’s answer. And you could easily imagine he was thinking, I didn’t sign up for this ... stuff!
It would be pretty easy for him to have that thought while someone is spraying a thick stream of pepper spray in his face.
But the truth is, in fact, he did sign up for this stuff – he and the 11 other 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Marines who were in the final phase of non-lethal weapons training here March 17, 2016. The 12 (you could probably call them the “dirty dozen” at this point) were the latest in a long line of Marines who have found that their many adventures in the Marine Corps could include duty in a security detail that requires some, well, unique training.
Of course, there’s a legitimate reason for trainees to get a face full of the powerful irritant, and if you think it’s to make them more “seasoned” Marines, you would only be partly correct – as long as you mean seasoned in the sense that they will be more experienced in handling a challenge like a rowdy crowd. A simple truth when dealing with an unruly mob is that, no matter how ready you think you are, your plan goes to hell when you get an unexpected face full of pepper spray intended for the hooligans. So you train for that too.
“This training allows the Marines to have first-hand experience with OC spray,” said Cpl. Christopher Jewell, using the more technical acronym for the type of spray the Marine Corps and many law enforcement agencies use. Jewell, a non-lethal weapons instructor with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, added, “They learn how to push through the effects of the spray in case they are ever contaminated with it, as they must then maneuver through the obstacle course while still executing proper procedures for handling non-compliant agitators.”
Don’t let the words “maneuver through the obstacle course” fool you here. This is no ordinary obstacle course, with ropes to climb and moats to swing over like Tarzan on a Sunday picnic. This course uses live obstacles … that pretend they are mad at you … and just don’t want to behave. Imagine running the gauntlet through a heavily armored, padded stick-wielding college football defensive line, while you are partially blind (and probably not breathing through your nose). Then imagine, while you are doing this, you are also learning to subdue them.
According to Jewell, security personnel must be trained in both lethal and non-lethal force in order to properly handle a situation without the misuse of appropriate force. Non-lethal methods are most commonly used not just to avoid unnecessary loss of life, but to also minimize injuries to the security detail who sometimes finds they are the only people in the situation who are following sensible rules.
“The experience reminded me of the first time I ate a ghost pepper,” explained Lance Cpl. Robert Rocco, an avionics technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 14. “You feel like your body is on fire and you can barely see anything. It was the most painful experience I’ve had so far.”
Perhaps in spite of the painful lessons that Rocco and his fellow trainees endured, it is clear that the value of this course was not lost on him. “The training definitely opened my eyes to other methods to subdue someone without the use of lethal force.”
Yes, he was using a metaphor there … and answering the riddle.