By 1st Lt. Janet L. Brown
101st Sustainment Brigade
FORT CAMPBELL, KY. – American soldiers often conduct training that places them in unique and potentially uncomfortable situations, which prepare them for real life situations. Most soldiers, however, do not receive pepper spray attacks during the course of their duties.
For 43 military police officers assigned to the 716th Military Police Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, being sprayed with Oleoresin Capsicum was just another part of training to help develop skills which could save their lives.
The MPs received the training recently in order to be certified to employ OC, commonly known as pepper spray, at Fort Campbell. It was part of their annual Law Enforcement Training Seminar, which wrapped up this past week.
“The training is important because it is a non-lethal tool we can use, instead of progressing immediately from hands-on contact to using deadly force,” said Staff Sgt. Jerry D. Thornton, non-lethal weapons instructor with the 716th MP Bn., 101st Sust. Bde. “The use of OC spray can make subduing an assailant less dangerous for ourselves and the subject.”
The procedures for this training are based on the Non-Lethal Weapons Instructor Course held at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and the Fort Campbell Provost Marshal Office’s standard operating procedures.
The soldiers first received training on the history, components, and effects of pepper spray on the human body, and then practice spraying stationary and moving targets using containers filled with lemon water.
They were then sprayed with actual pepper spray and had to completed an assault course relevant to their role as a military police officer while enduring the excruciating pain brought on by the effects of the OC. The five station course simulated an MP fighting off aggressors after contamination with OC spray.
All military police soldiers must complete this certification prior to performing law enforcement duties on Fort Campbell. Many MPs were participating in this training for the very first time, and they expressed a variety of emotions including nervousness, excitement, fear, and uncertainty.
Spc. Scott D. Carvajal and Pfc. Jenna A. Knapp, both assigned to the 194th Military Police Company, 716th MP Bn., 101st Sust. Bde., said they were nervous and uncertain as to how it would actually feel on their faces since this was both their first pepper spray training event.
First the instructor sprayed soldiers at Station One, where the spray took nearly five seconds to take full effect. The soldiers’ initial instinct was to attempt to rub their eyes, but the instructors and safeties constantly reminded them not to in order to avoid any type of damage to their eyes or face.
Each soldier then moved to the next station where they used their training to fend off attackers while temporarily blinded.
“It was difficult to land blows in the blink of an eye, given that the spray would only allow them to open for that long,” Knapp said.
Relief finally came to the soldiers when they moved to the decontamination station to clean up.
“The experience was painful, but it was good training which will help in the future,” Carvajal said.
Capt. Christopher G. Philpot, battalion law and order officer, said the soldiers are learning the direct effects of how the spray feels. “This will allow them to understand how their subjects are feeling if they ever have to use it in a real world situation, and will teach them self-control when using it,” he said.
“But more importantly it will teach them that if they ever get sprayed during a conflict, they will be able to fight through the effects of it and continue with their mission.”
Editor’s Note: 1st Lt. Brown is the Unit Public Affairs Representative for the 716th Military Police Battalion