Iraqi Army commandos with the 14th Division received training in crowd control techniques at their headquarters in Basra July 10 and 11. Soldiers from the 354th Military Police Company out of St. Louis held classroom instruction and led them through hands-on training in formations and movements.

The lead instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Bryon Foreman, 354th MP Co. operations sergeant, from Tecumseh, Mich., used his personal knowledge and experience as a captain in a state prison to bring the training to life.

"Crowd control is something I've done for 23 years outside of the Army," Foreman said.

As an Army Reservist, Foreman is able to bring the skills from his job at a prison with him to help the commandos train. Over the course of his career, he has personally commanded large groups of police during two large-scale incidents.

"Some of these things I have experienced myself, and this will help them in the future to deal with large-scale gatherings of people," he said.

The training began with information on types of crowds and the motivations behind them. The dynamics and behavioral aspects of a crowd were covered. Furthermore, the Iraqis learned techniques for handling a crowd without using escalating force so situations that begin peacefully, remain so.

"We're talking about how to read a crowd, how to understand if it is a hostile crowd or just a casual crowd, and then how to appropriately respond to that," Foreman said.

Several psychological factors combine to affect the way crowds of people react to situations including anonymity, impersonality, suggestion or imitation, and an emotional contagion.

"When people get angry in a crowd that emotion spreads very rapidly," Foreman said. "It's very important to de-escalate quickly."

He explained the importance of understanding the motivations and behaviors of crowds so situations don't spiral out of control.

"We are working with them in their crowd control and disturbance control training in order to avoid overreaction during civil gatherings or civil disturbances," Foreman said. "People will be vocalizing their displeasure with things as they do in America. They speak out against the government or against things that they feel to be unfair. They need to learn and understand how to deal with those situations when they come up."

Most gatherings are peaceful, but in the instance that one does turn negative, Foreman taught how to appropriately respond with the least amount of force.

"Often times we just monitor if it's a casual crowd. We focus on prevention and good planning and monitor for instigators who are trying to turn the crowd violent," Foreman told the commandos.

One technique taught is to open a dialogue with leaders of a demonstration that way their message can be heard.

While emphasizing the peaceful monitoring of a crowd, the next part of the class covered various methods of dealing with a crowd that becomes violent or destructive.

The commandos learned options to prepare and respond, including training in line formations and an introduction to less-than-lethal options.

"We're giving them a broad overview of all the things that are currently in the U.S. less-than-lethal arsenal. They're not necessarily going to use that but we're giving them some ideas for down the road things that they can practice or train with," Foreman said.

The commandos trained outside in line formations and were able to practice with flex-cuffs and shotguns. They executed formation movements and how to break into a mob to grab someone who is being unruly.

"Training, training, training is the key to proper reaction," Foreman said.

"I think all in all it was really good training they seemed to adapt to it very well," said Sgt. Joe Aylsworth, a 354th MP Co. team leader.

"They didn't know about the formations, what it was, what the gear was, and how it was used. After the training they were able to get hands-on and actually be put in the formations," the La Crosse, Wis., native said.

The commandos said they felt they were given more tools to deal with a crowd control situation.
The more they train and prepare for these situations the better they will be able to defuse them in a peaceful manner, Foreman said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16