News: A painful lesson: The 31st MEU’s artillery battery trains non-lethal techniques
Story by Sgt. Paul Robbins
OKINAWA, Japan - They traded their cannons for shields, artillery shells for pepper spray, and rifles for Tasers. The Marines went non-lethal.
More than one hundred Marines and Sailors of Golf Battery, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, completed the culminating event of their public disorder and non-lethal weapons employment training here, Jan. 24.
Golf Battery’s main mission is the employment of M777 155mm Howitzers in support of combat operations. But their secondary mission calls for them to use an entirely different skill set.
“Our primary mission is shooting Howitzers, but as part of the 31st MEU, our secondary mission includes providing a non-lethal weapon contingency force,” said 1st Lt. Ulysses O. Sosa, a platoon commander for G. Battery, BLT 2/5, 31st MEU.
In order to meet the requirements of a non-lethal weapon contingency force, the Marines and Sailors trained riot control techniques, employment of oleoresin capsicum (a more potent form of pepper spray), and employment of the X26 Taser.
The riot control techniques were tested by a scenario that involved approximately 20 Marine role players attempting to gain access to a notional embassy. Using riot shields, batons and inert OC spray, the G. Battery Marines attempted to quell or capture the crowd. The challenge was a first for many, but the Marines adapted well.
“It is a difficult transition, but within an hour of the training the Marines were gung-ho about non-lethal,” said Sosa, a native of San Diego, Calif. “If you give Marines a mission and show them how to complete it, they will do everything in their power to be successful.”
When the scenario was complete, G. Battery put away the armor and met with non-lethal weapons instructors of 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion. After hours of classroom of instruction throughout the week, ranging from the chemical make-up of OC spray to the effective range of the Taser, the Marines were ready to experience the weapons.
In order to obtain a true understanding of the weapons’ effects on a person and to ensure their judicious use, every Marine and Sailor felt all 50,000 volts of the X26 Taser and experienced the burning sensation of OC Spray on the eyes.
“It definitely provided me with a new perspective on using the non-lethal weaponry,” said Lance Cpl. Erwin Moore Jr., a motor transport operator for G. Battery, BLT 2/5, 31st MEU, and a native of East St. Louis, Illinois. “I know the effects now, and with the OC, I know I can work through them.”
With the training and recovery complete, G. Battery is ready to be employed for the various contingencies it may face as a non-lethal force for the 31st MEU. The Marines’ new skills are valuable for embassy security reinforcement, humanitarian operations and other non-kinetic operations.
“This capability gives the 31st MEU Commander the ability to handle situations with the least amount of force necessary,” said Gunnery Sgt. Mark Massalski, a non-lethal weapons instructor for 3rd LE Bn., and a native of Townsend, Mass.
The 31st MEU is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness for the Asia-Pacific region and the only continuously forward-deployed MEU.