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News | Oct. 30, 2009

Conference and Capabilities Exercise 2009 Features Non-Lethal Capabilities

By Jennifer Bowen Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate

STUTTGART, Germany – The Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWP) is increasing awareness of non-lethal weapons (NLWs) throughout the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) areas of responsibility. As part of this effort, the JNLWP recently sponsored the 2009 EUCOM/AFRICOM Non-Lethal Weapons Conference and Capabilities Exercise (CAPEX) Aug. 25-26 near Stuttgart, Germany.

Non-lethal weapons provide warfighters with escalation-of-force options when lethal force is not the best first response. The Department of Defense defines non-lethal weapons as “weapons, devices and munitions that are explicitly designed and primarily employed to incapacitate targeted personnel or materiel immediately, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel and undesired damage to property in the target area or environment. Non-lethal weapons are intended to have reversible effects on personnel and materiel.”

U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe/Africa (MarForEur/Af) hosted the CAPEX events. According to EUCOM NLW Combatant Command (COCOM) Liaison Officer (CLO) Eric Damm and AFRICOM NLW CLO Tony Lewis, who both organized the events, the exercises’ main goals were to increase NLW awareness within the two commands’ areas of responsibility while enhancing interoperability and operational capabilities through training and educating their Service members and through interaction with allied and partner nations.

More than 90 people attended each event. Representatives from invited allied and partner nations, including Germany and 11 African countries, attended the exercises. EUCOM and AFRICOM service components and staffs also attended, along with U.S.-based Service representatives, individuals from the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, NLW program managers and numerous industry representatives.

Lieutenant Colonel Holden Dunham, EUCOM’s NLW Program Manager, and Lieutenant Colonel Ed Howell, AFRICOM’s NLW Program Manager, helped organize the events.

Lt. Col. Dunham noted the importance of NLWs. “Non-lethal capabilities give the commander more options along the force continuum,” he said. “However, non-lethal weapons are not designed to restrict the commander, but to allow a commander to exert more control over a situation.”

NLWs could potentially play an important role in military operations throughout AFRICOM’s area of responsibility, according to Lt. Col. Howell. “The African Union has directed its members to be prepared to support peacekeeping operations within the continent,” said Lt. Col. Howell. “Providing non-lethal weapon training to our allies and partner nations and helping them integrate the usage of non-lethal weapon equipment and techniques into their operations provides a significant range of options for these forces.”

CAPEX Activities During each CAPEX, NLW experts led conferences, featuring briefs and discussions. The conferences addressed both commands’ NLW programs, as well as policies influencing NLW use in each area of responsibility. The conferences also offered a forum for attendees to discuss non-lethal concepts and served as a starting point to increase interaction between each program and its respective COCOM.

Following the conference, U.S. Marines conducted an NLW capabilities exercise at the Panzer Kaserne Local Training Area, next to MarForEur/Af Headquarters, near Stuttgart, Germany.

The demonstration featured currently fielded non-lethal capabilities, including 12-gauge fin-stabilized rubber bullets, 40mm non-lethal munitions, non-lethal rubber sting-ball grenades, paint ball marking rounds fired from an FN-303 Less-Lethal Launcher, the TASER® X-26, simulated oleoresin capsicum (pepper spray), the Long-Range Acoustic Device and the Vehicle Lightweight Arresting Device.

The demonstration showed the employment of non-lethal weapons, devices and munitions in four mission scenarios, including clearing a group of people from an open area, keeping a vehicle from entering a convoy, stopping a vehicle and controlling a riot. CAPEX organizers developed the scenarios based on the types of situations that EUCOM and AFRICOM forces could potentially face during operational missions.

“We’re not just showing somebody a system,” said Damm. “We show attendees, as well as the Marines, how those nonlethal systems can be used in the context of current missions.”

FAST Company in Action Marines from the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) Company based in Rota, Spain, executed the demonstrations. To prepare the Marines for their part in the CAPEX, Marine Corps NLW instructors, together with Damm and Lewis, conducted a week-long NLW familiarization. The NLW instructors trained the Marines on crowd and riot control tactics, as well as how to employ various non-lethal munitions and devices.

Many FAST Marines commented that participating in the NLW demonstration was one of the highlights of their involvement with the CAPEX.

“The demonstration really helped us piece together exactly how and where each non-lethal device and non-lethal munition could be used,” said Lance Corporal Alejandro Cisneros Palmerin, one of the Marines who participated in the NLW demonstration.

The training and demonstration also showed the Marines the value of having non-lethal options on hand during operational missions.

“It opened our eyes to just how helpful non-lethal weapons are in situations where you are unsure how to respond with the different levels of force,” said Lance Corporal Samuel Curry, another participating Marine.

After the demonstration, CAPEX attendees had the chance to visit industry displays featuring the non-lethal weapons, munitions and devices demonstrated earlier, get hands-on NLW familiarization and employ a variety of the non-lethal munitions and devices from the demonstration. U.S. military units in Iraq and Afghanistan are currently using many of the non-lethal weapons included in the demonstration, display and familiarization.

Both Damm and Lewis commented on the success of the CAPEX.

“The AFRICOM non-lethal weapons program received a great deal of interest in non-lethal weapons from the African allied and partner nations that attended the event,” said Lewis. AFRICOM is now planning NLW education events in Africa to capitalize on the initial success of the CAPEX.

In addition to these upcoming events, the JNLWP is working toward expanding NLW awareness, education and training throughout all the COCOMs, as well as allied and partner nations. These efforts will help educate U.S. and allied operating forces about non-lethal capabilities and escalation-of-force options that are crucial to mission success.