Jan. 24, 2017 —
In an open field at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, an Airman fends off attackers one by one while experiencing disorientation, shortness of breath and struggling to open his eyes through excruciating pain.
The individual runs nearly blind through the field toward the next target, continuing to fight against assailants and the urge to stop moving. He persists in his advance; this struggle is maintaining his readiness to defend the base.
Throwing knees, baton attacks and slapping handcuffs on the aggressors, the 20th Security Forces Squadron Airman gives it his all to advance through the obstacle course with orange liquid running down his forehead into his eyes.
Although the aggression was a simulated experience, the real experience and insight of how pepper spray affects the body may save his life in the future.
Along with batons and Tasers, pepper spray is one of the less-lethal weapons 20th SFS defenders reviewed Jan. 18.
Their day started off logging hours in the classroom; Airmen reviewed use of force and discussed various scenarios and how they would handle a situation.
“The classroom aspect is very critical because we have to make sure they understand all the nomenclature and terminology we use,” said Master Sgt. Somchai Rollins, 20th SFS commander’s support staff NCO in charge and baton trainer.
As the day went on, the Airmen gathered outside for a baton course to practice opening, closing and attacking with a baton.
“With this being part of their annual refresher, we do a quick demonstration, go over the basic aspects of the baton and what areas you can and can’t strike, just to refresh their memory,” said Rollins. “We’ll do some basic bag drills so they remember that muscle memory and how to utilize the baton correctly.”
Security Forces defenders put their use of force knowledge and less-lethal weapons training to the test in the “shoot house,” a portion of a warehouse set up for tactical training, where they were given various scenarios and had to decide what level of force, if any, to apply.
“Given a variety of scenarios, we’re expecting different outcomes,” said Karl Johnson, 20th SFS trainer. “You have lethal and non-lethal scenarios; you can have a scenario that has a lethal weapon that is not used in a threatening manner, so it shouldn’t result in a deadly situation. The best way to learn is in a learning environment, so that you are better able to deal with a situation should you encounter it for real.”
Covered in tactical gear, an Airman hears yelling from a backroom and calls out from a doorway, “20th Security Forces, please come to the door.”
A figure appears from a doorway and runs toward the defender, waving a knife. There’s a choice to make that could mean the difference between life or death, for the Airman or the aggressor. The Airman reaches for the answer that his continuous training has led him to.
“Training is probably the most critical thing you can do,” said Rollins. “You never know when a situation is going to kick off. I know here at Shaw it’s very rare we have an incident happen. When it does, we need to be ready.”
Use of force and less-lethal weapons training is an annual requirement for 20th SFS Airmen. Overall, the training gave Airmen a chance to refresh their knowledge and skills, helping to maintain readiness for both at home and downrange defense and allowing others to focus on the mission without fear.
After placing handcuffs on the last offender, the suffering Airman is led away by his wingmen. He washes his face with water, feeling drained. The burning will only last a few days as the last of the pepper spray leaves his pores, but the memories and lessons learned may last a lifetime.