AT SEA, USS Essex -- Imagine being in a kitchen, chopping up a batch of jalapeno and ghost peppers, putting it into a mixture of oil, water, and some emulsifiers, putting that all into a blender and then bottling it and pouring it on your face.
This is how U.S. Marine Sgt. Justin Leduc, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the Law Enforcement Detachment, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, explained how it feels to be sprayed with oleoresin capsicum, or OC spray; the military’s version of pepper spray.
“It’s not the most pleasant experience but it does the job,” Leduc said. “It’s not made to have people like it, it’s made to stop an aggressor, and it definitely does its’ job.”
U.S. Marines and sailors took part in a week-long non-lethal weapons course aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, Oct. 27-31, where they learned different techniques for escalating force while they’re standing watch. This included different mechanical-advantage control holds, baton techniques, and the use of OC spray.
The course is designed for Navy and Marine watch standers that may need to use different techniques in port and at sea to take down an aggressor. Some Marines also volunteered to take the course to get the experience and have a better understanding of what the sailors and Marines go through to be watch standers.
“All of our jobs are connected in some way so it helps to have some sort of understanding of what each other does,” said Lance Cpl. Breeann Rogers, a motor transportation operator with CLB 15, 15th MEU and a member of the combat cargo platoon. “It builds a level of respect because we have a better understanding of what they go through. I appreciate what they do more after going through this course.”
The course began with a couple days of Powerpoint presentations, followed by practical application which gave the students a chance to learn the techniques they would need for the qualification course on the final day.
“[The qualification course] consists of five stations,” Leduc said. “Hands-free takedowns or takedowns without batons, takedowns using baton strikes, handcuffing procedures, and dealing with the effects of being contaminated with OC spray.”
The Marines and sailors trained toward the final day, anxiously anticipating how they would react to the spray.
“They’re absolutely nervous,” Leduc said. “As an instructor, I still get nervous for them and the chance of me getting secondary contamination always exists too. I’ve heard the students voice their concerns throughout the week but they’re all definitely ready to experience it. They wouldn’t be standing these watches if they weren’t able to handle it.”
The students in the course learned valuable skills they can use during watch to handle different situations.
“It’s important for these Marines and Sailors to know there are different means to handle situations,” Leduc said. “Going through this course gives them the ability to build confidence with other tools they may not be familiar with. It also provides more safety for those on the ship because they will have more methods to handle the situations when they arise.”
At the end of the course, the Marines and sailors are qualified to carry OC spray on them to use if necessary and are more confident with other non-lethal techniques they can use on an aggressor.
“You get a three-year certification to carry OC spray after the course,” Rogers said. “It also transfers over to the civilian world. It’s a good thing to have just to keep your options open career-wise.”
This qualification will give them more techniques to use, making them a more competent watch stander.
“I definitely think the students at the end of this course will be a lot more qualified,” Leduc said. “Having this capability while they’re standing watch definitely enhances their tools in their tool belt to handle situations that may arise when they’re standing their watches, whether in port or at sea. I would definitely say it gives them a better understanding of the tools that are at their disposal.”
The Marines plan to hold another two-week non-lethal-weapons course aboard ship that will go more in depth with different weapons and techniques that are at their disposal.