STUTTGART, Germany – Personnel from U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command demonstrated the growing importance and capabilities of non-lethal weapons (NLW) during a two-day conference and capabilities exercise (CAPEX) here August 25-26.
The conference and CAPEX provided an opportunity for senior leaders to witness the importance of non-lethal weapons in today’s range of military operations.
“We are trying to highlight to the USEURCOM and U.S. Africa Command staffs the capabilities of their respective NLW programs, and how NL systems and tactics provide commanders extra options across the entire spectrum of force,” said Eric Damm, USEURCOM NLW liaison officer and Marine Forces Europe NLW program manager. “The thing we like to key in on is that these tools are effective and practical, and allow commanders a robust means of dealing with ambiguous situations while avoiding the negative consequences that can stem from using lethal means of force.”
In her opening remarks, Brig. Gen. Tracy L. Garrett, commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, highlighted how the flexibility of NLW makes them well suited to the variety of challenges presented in both the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility.
“The evolution of U.S. defense strategy toward a greater focus on support and stability operations, support to civil authorities, humanitarian assistance, and unconventional and irregular warfare reinforces how non-lethal weapons can play a valuable role in ensuring mission success,” Garrett said.
“Regardless if it’s a European nation working with NATO or the United Nations, or an African nation working with the African Standby Force or the African Union, these non-lethal weapons offer valuable capabilities for humanitarian and peacekeeping missions,” Damm said.
This year’s conference was held in conjunction with the Marine Forces Africa Marine Leaders of Africa Conference 2009, a conference to establish and enhance dialogue between American and African marine forces.
In addition to benefiting the USEURCOM and U.S. Africa Command staffs, the NLW conference and CAPEX offered the African military representatives a chance to learn more about the non-lethal systems and a first-hand opportunity to see them in action.
In a series on scenario-based demonstrations, spectators witnessed Marines stop a vehicle without injuring the occupants, move a group from an open area and practice crowd control methods. During the demos, they used combinations of the following non-lethal systems: 12 gauge fin-stabilized rubber rounds, 40mm rubber ball rounds and foam baton rounds, Stinger Ball Non-lethal Grenade, Taser X-26, FN-303 Less Lethal Air Launcher, Long-Range Acoustic Device-500 and the Vehicle Lightweight Arresting Device (VLAD) vehicle stopper.
“[The demonstration] helped to raise awareness of what these systems are and what they can do,” said Tony Lewis, U.S. Africa Command NLW liaison officer and Marine Forces Africa NLW program manager. “The training package demonstrated by the Marines is the same package we can deliver to a partner nation upon request.”
The capabilities demonstrated at the event were the product of a week-long training session for the Marines of Marine Corps Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) Company from Rota, Spain, who provided the Marines for the live demonstration.
During this time, Marine Forces Europe and Africa NLW instructors trained the FAST Co. Marines in crowd control tactics, Oleoresin Capsicum (pepper spray) certification, various non-lethal munitions, and vehicle arresting systems.
“Our primary mission was to train and familiarize the Marines with new NLW tactics, capabilities, technologies and munitions,” said Staff Sgt. Bradley Loudon, Marine Forces Europe lead non-lethal weapons instructor. “By doing that, we were then able to demonstrate to the leadership of U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command, as well as the visiting African leaders, how a fully trained platoon can employ these non-lethal tools to meet a variety of mission requirements.”
The CAPEX also offered the participants the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the various non-lethal weapon systems they saw in action during a familiarization-fire time.
With corporate representatives and FAST Co. Marines on-hand to lend expertise and pointers, the participants had a chance to fire various non-lethal munitions such as the 12 gauge fin-stabilized rubber shotgun round, 40mm non-lethal foam baton round and the FN303 less-lethal launcher.
“It’s one thing to sit in a conference room and hear someone talk about a specific non-lethal system,” Lewis said. “To get out there and actually get your hands on it is a great way to see how the system is practically employed.”
Other non-lethal systems displayed were: the X-26 taser, FN-303 less lethal launching system, medium and long range acoustic devices, green laser ocular disrupter, and numerous non-lethal munitions.
Marine Forces Europe and Marine Forces Africa are the executive agents for the non-lethal weapons programs of both USEURCOM and U.S. Africa Command.