Members of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program conducted a demonstration of various munitions at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, Nov. 8, 2018.
A team of instructors from the U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, JNLWP management office travelled to Fort Eustis to show senior officers the available non-lethal weapons options as part of a Joint Forces Staff College course.
“This demo gives (students) a hands-on experience that they wouldn’t otherwise get from the presentations in a classroom,” said U.S. Navy 1st Lt. Shannon Davis, JNLWP surface warfare officer. “We educate senior officers who are taking Joint Professional Military Education classes on what is available so that they are then able to take this knowledge back to their current and future commands.”
The instructors, made up of officers, enlisted and civilian personnel, travel to war colleges and combatant commands to display the most current weapons systems, train units on proper safety procedures, inventory unit capabilities, perform quality checks and work to get units more advanced options.
While getting hands-on experience with the weapons may be a perk of taking the class, the instructors also make sure to emphasize the effects of non-lethal weapons and provide an understanding of escalation-of-force.
“The safety aspects of these munitions are key,” Davis said. “It’s important to understand the minimum target range because these rounds, even though they’re called non-lethal with reversible effects, are capable of doing some very serious damage or kill someone if used improperly.”
According to Davis, non-lethal weapons can play a vital role for members working in the field. Often times, members must enter high-tension situations and make assessments without yet knowing details. The alternate weapons options can provide an extra step in the escalation-of-force process and can help de-escalate encounters in order to determine intent or if lethal force is appropriate.
“I think escalation-of-force weapons are important because there are times when lethal force may not be justified,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Benjamin Moran, U.S. Embassy Security Cooperation Office operations officer. “This can be especially true for security forces personnel. Having an option that will effectively subdue someone without lethal force is exactly what we need.”
The overarching class theme is that non-lethal weapons are complimentary to lethal weapons. Lethal overwatch is ever-present when non-lethal weapons are implemented in real-world scenarios, but the JNLWP team works to educate members and ensure they return home safely after every shift.
“I wish more people knew about this class,” said Davis. “Demonstrations like these are essential because this will keep these options in the back of participants’ minds. They will definitely remember how it felt when they threw a flash grenade.”