WASHINGTON – Senior military leaders from 22 nations, most in the Asia-Pacific region, are gathered in Mongolia this week to learn about nonlethal weapons and how their forces can more effectively use them, when circumstances require, such as to maintain order during low-intensity conflict or civil unrest.
The two-day leadership seminar, sponsored by U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, began Aug. 26 with demonstrations of nonlethal tactics, techniques and procedures at a training area about 30 miles west of Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, Marine Corps Col. Brad Bartelt, the senior U.S. seminar representative, told American Forces Press Service.
The session continues through tomorrow in the capital city, with participants discussing how they might apply the principles demonstrated.
The leadership seminar is the second phase of a two-part program conducted to promote awareness of nonlethal weapons and increase interoperability among those that use them, Bartelt said.
The training kicked off Aug. 17 with a bilateral field training exercise between U.S. and Mongolian forces at Mongolia’s Five Hills Training Area. Fifteen 15 nonlethal weapons instructors from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force’s 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion conducted hands-on training for more than 150 members of the Mongolian armed forces and general police, Bartelt reported.
Together, they rehearsed nonlethal tactics and procedures such as control holds and pressure-point techniques. They also got hands-on training with various nonlethal weapons systems, including oleoresin capsicum, or “pepper spray,” the X26 Taser, 40-millimeter sponge and “stingball” grenades and nonlethal shotgun rounds.
“The extensive, tactical-level training that took place during the FTX greatly increased the nonlethal proficiency of both the U.S. Marines who led the training, as well as the Mongolian personnel who might have been exposed to these nonlethal procedures for the first time,” Bartelt said.
Marine Corps Sgt. Ben Eberle, a combat correspondent who witnessed the training, said he was impressed how quickly the Mongolians absorbed on the information covered. “Show them once, and they had it,” he said. “And it’s all even more impressive since everyone communicated with each other through interpreters.”
Each experienced firsthand how it feels to be hit with a nonlethal weapon, designed to intimidate or inflict pain or discomfort rather than to kill. “No matter what language we speak, everyone runs through the [observer-controller] course in pain, and everyone takes a stun from a Taser the same way,” Eberle said. “Just because it’s nonlethal doesn’t mean it’s pain-free. I think whoever said friends are made through hardship hit the nail right on the head.”
The training could prove valuable for the Mongolian armed forces, a major contributor to peacekeeping operations around the world, Bartelt said. The Mongolians have deployed in support of U.N. peacekeeping missions in South Sudan, Sierra Leon and the Balkans, and continue to augment the coalition in Afghanistan, he noted.
In many instances during these missions, nonlethal weapons can be valuable additions to ground commanders, he said.
“There are times when lethal force is not the best option,” Bartelt said. “For example, the effective use of nonlethal weapons can prove extremely valuable during rescue missions, situations in which civilians are used to mask a military attack, as well as riots and cases of civil disturbance during humanitarian assistance-disaster relief operations.”
Nonlethal weapons are designed to incapacitate equipment and people, minimizing fatalities and permanent injury and collateral property damage, Bartelt said. “Being able to use them effectively greatly increases the options a commander has while operating in the full spectrum of conflict,” he said.
As the Defense Department’s executive agent for nonlethal weapons and devices, the Marine Corps frequently leads related training, not only within the U.S. military, but also with partner nations.
Since 2002, Marine Corps Forces Pacific has sponsored the executive seminar series 12 times with partners throughout the region. This year’s exercise is the third to be hosted by Mongolia, and New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Malaysia have hosted previous sessions.
The training, Bartelt said, promotes closer partnership across the region, a pillar of the U.S. military rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific as nations work together to confront common challenges.
Recognizing that nonlethal capabilities and procedures vary significantly across nations, Bartelt called the exercise an opportunity to increase interoperability with partners “in the event we ever find ourselves side by side in a situation where we need to put this training to use.”