MARINE CORPS TRAINING AREA BELLOWS, Hawaii — Though Lance Cpl. Tory Martin couldn’t understand the shouts of the role-player, he could tell the man was agitated.
Crouched behind a tree stump, the rifleman kept his weapon pointed on the man slinging rocks in his direction. As the assailant persisted, Martin shot a green laser into his eyes. Faster than the situation escalated, the aggressor’s posture crumbled. He retreated, shielding his eyes, and the unruly situation was quelled.
In concert with the Department of Defense Non-Lethal Weapons Program, Marines with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment participated in non-lethal weapons training scenarios during foot patrols through a simulated urban village, Aug. 15, 2012.
The training was part of a two-week test readiness review fielded by the Quantico, Va.-based Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate and the Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, Experimentation Center.
The DoD Non-Lethal Weapons Program, headed by Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos, trains operating forces on escalation of force options to minimize casualties and collateral damage, said Kelley Hughes, a directorate spokesperson.
“We’re showing the Marines, in a quantative manner, the benefits of using non-lethal weapons … that they’re available for use, easy to be trained on and very effective,” said Brian Long, the project officer for the DoD Non-Lethal Weapons Demonstration and Assessment Program.
But the non-lethal weapons aren’t a replacement for lethal weapons like the M4 and M16 carbine rifles, Long said. They’re used to fill the gaps in situations falling between “no threat and an immediate threat.”
Beginning Aug. 6, infantrymen with India Company received a week of training on rules of engagement and escalation of force procedures. They studied and learned to employ a variety of the Marine Corps’ non-lethal weapons and munitions, including flash bang and Stingball grenades, lasers, OC spray and Tasers.
“They’re extra tools to use in de-escalating a situation, especially when there’s time to tone down the circumstances before they require lethal force,” said Sgt. Daniel McCaughern, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, India Co., 3/3, and 24-year-old native of Deer Park, N.Y.
This week, instructors put the Marines to work. They carried non-lethal weapons during foot patrols to use in scenarios involving armed villagers, compound clearing, crowd control and vehicle checkpoints.
“It took a few practice runs to get used to the [non-lethal] weapons, but our training came into value when we saw their effects and understood their capabilities,” McCaughern said.
During the final patrol, McCaughern led his fire team of Marines through a barrage of sticky situations. They were engaged by livid, rock-throwing village elders, simulated small arms fire and even a man waving a machete.
In response, they unleashed their non-lethal arsenal — flash-bangs, grenades, OC spray, lasers and Tasers. When the situation warranted it, they finished with lethal force.
“The different scenarios worked, in the back of my mind, the thought that there’s another option than lethal force,” said Martin, a 20-year-old native of Twentynine Palms, Calif., assigned to 3rd Platoon, India Co., 3/3.
The Marines followed the foot patrols by joining their instructors to dissect the scenarios. They reviewed videos taken from a variety of overheard angles and discussed how the events transpired. Listening closely, the instructors gleaned feedback that would contribute to their data and statistical analysis.
While this training wasn’t typical for infantrymen trained to kill their enemies, Long said it bettered their ability to quickly and proficiently accomplish any mission.
“The culture shift — from using lethal weapons to using non-lethal ones — is difficult to get through to everyone we train,” Long said. “But if non-lethal weapons aren’t available or they’re not trained on them, they could be walking into a hornet’s nest unprepared.”