MARINE CORPS AIR GROUND COMBAT CENTER TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. --
“Close your eyes and take a deep breath.” Those were the last words the Marines with Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine
Regiment and two company’s with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment
, heard before being sprayed in the face with Oleoresin Capsicum, more commonly known as pepper spray, during their level one contamination training at Del Valle Field March 23.
Capt. Nathan Morales, the commanding officer of Battery M, 3rd. Bn., 11th Marines, said the Marines are required to conduct the training in case they are inadvertently exposed during a riot so they can continue to provide support to their fellow Marines before their upcoming deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in the summer.
“With the 911 nature of a MEU and how they are called in to take part in humanitarian operations, and in certain circumstances we may have to use nonlethal force and must know how to employee such force,” said Morales, a San Antonio, Texas, native.
After being sprayed, the Marines were required to do push ups and jumping jacks, then run through a course where they used Marine Corps Martial Arts techniques to take down mock combatants.
“I never want to do this again,” said Lance Cpl. Justin Jamerson, a motor transportation operator with Battery M, 3rd Bn., 11th Marines, and a Dothan, Ala., native. “It feels like your face has burned off, but it’s something we have to endure so we have the experience and know how much force is needed to stop an attack.”
While running the course, mock rioters attacked the Marines, forcing them to use a baton to defend themselves. Their last obstacle was to properly use pepper spray to detain a mock protester.
“It helps to know what other people will be feeling and going through so when we are spraying them, we are not over-doing it,” said Sgt. Zachary Villarreal, an ammunitions chief for Battery M, 3rd Bn., 11th Marines. “The stuff we are learning here is the best option to start with during a riot other than going to other nonlethal munitions.”
Morales said the Marines were learning nonlethal methods to detain people in order to protect civilians and preserve life.