Walls of riot shields clanked as waves of Marines and sailors from the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit fended off simulated protestors at Stone Bay Friday.
“The last two weeks, they’ve done all the non-lethal packages, ranging from (Oleoresin Capsicum) spray, various types of munitions, riot control formations, control holds and live-fire training,” said Marine Staff Sgt. Jason Lyon, the lead instructor for the non-lethal weapons course at Stone Bay. “Today we combine all of that into one final culminating exercise.”
Instructors from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force’s Special Operations Training Group guided and evaluated the 1st Battalion, 10th Marines artillery attachment as they demonstrated riot-control skills and non-lethal weapons procedures. Students donned flak jackets, Kevlar helmets, shin pads, riot shields and masks and wielded batons, shotguns, inert Oleoresin Capsicum spray and M-4 carbines to combat the simulated rioters.
As a crisis response, leader’s commands echoed from a nearby tree line, to which students maneuvered and neutralized the objective during their final live-fire run, where they fired beanbag shotgun rounds at dummy targets.
“This fits directly into the MEU’s mission because they could quite possibly be tasked with crisis response around the world,” Lyon said. “It further fits into the current global scenario because there are a lot of things going on in the world with riots and embassies. These Marines are now trained to take on any situation they are tasked.”
The Marines have been using a “crawl, walk and then run” mentality.
Leading up to the final exercise, the students learned crisis-response skills in the classroom and outside it with practices conducted without gear.
Throughout the week, instructors presented progressively more challenging scenarios and, Lyon said, the results were “outstanding.”
“They have handled each scenario very well, which is good because most of these guys have never seen or heard of these techniques,” Lyon said.
At first glance, Sgt. Kyle Alejon, 23, of Birmingham, Ala., was unfamiliar and skeptical of all the non-lethal equipment but later became comfortable with using and relying on the gear, he said.
“Everything has a purpose and it works like it’s supposed to,” Alejon said. “We’ve got the masks, shields and shin guards on top of all our other gear to protect us for anything the rioters may throw at us. Through the training, we’ve seen how it all works to our benefit.”
Alejon and Cpl. James Wilson, 22, of Brasstown, both agreed that the high temperatures during training made “the stack” of Marines behind the shields feel as if they were, “working in a greenhouse.”
“After this training, I feel like I can operate at any embassy or crisis situation regardless of the heat and level of discomfort,” Wilson said. “I know now that we can control a situation without doing damage, costing lives or creating more enemies. Instead of hurting them, you’re just simply protecting them.”