By Staff Sgt. Christopher McCulloughFebruary 26, 2014
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Pepper spray shows up on television and in the news quite often. There is a good reason for that. It hurts. It really hurts.
In order to certify their ability to carry pepper spray, military police officers with 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division held training Feb. 21 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Pepper spray, also known as oleoresin capsicum, OC spray, OC gas, and capsicum spray is a chemical compound used for riot control, crowd control, and personal self-defense. It irritates the eyes, causes tears, pain and even temporary blindness.
This mandatory training teaches the MPs what it feels like to be hit with OC spray and also forces them to work through several obstacles while under its effect.
In order to carry OC spray, military police officers must be sprayed with it themselves so they know what the capabilities of the OC spray are, said Staff Sgt. Christopher McKinney, a nonlethal weapons instructor with the brigade.
"That way if they ever got cross-contaminated while spraying an individual they would know exactly how to fight through that," said McKinney, an Indianapolis resident. "They know how to gather and keep their composure in order to fight through and subdue their subject."
The training was not limited to just being sprayed with the OC agent; the soldiers also had to carry out specific actions at four different stations pertinent to their duties as MPs.
After their initial spraying, soldiers moved to station one, usually with some assistance, where they used what is referred to as the clinch position - a grappling move where the MP grabs an aggressor behind the back of the head and does repeated knee-strikes to a cushioned pad for one minute.
At the next two stations, soldiers had to keep away assailants via front and rear jabs using a baton and then conduct a takedown using a hand-to-hand combat move known as an arm-bar. Finally, soldiers had to talk an armed individual down using clear, precise commands in order to apprehend and handcuff that subject, McKinney said. Only then were they allowed to move to the decontamination station where they used water, baby shampoo, and a fan to neutralize the sting.
OC training is not for the meek of heart as Pvt. Steve Rodriguez, a Moreno Valley, Calif., native, learned when he went through the course for the first time.
"It was just hell," said Rodriguez, a gunner with the MP platoon. "I went through the whole course yelling. By the time I got to the end, my eyes were blurry. I could barely see anything ... I did what I had to do and now I'm just suffering through the pain."
After the soldiers decontaminated, they stayed for an hour for observation, McKinney said. He knows that once the burning in their eyes and on their skin abates that his MPs will have learned something from this experience.
"This helps better them so they know how to fight through the situation," said McKinney, referring to cross-contamination.
McKinney also said that MPs only have to go through this training once as long as they hold on to the certificates they received at the end.
"If they don't hold onto their certificate, which certifies them to carry pepper spray, they have to do it until they get a certificate," he said.
According to Rodriguez, going through the OC spray lane is not something he ever cares to repeat again.
"I'm telling you, you do not want to get sprayed with this," Rodriguez said. "There's no adjective, no words to describe the pain."