In the News

News | Feb. 9, 2009

Marine Forces Europe instructors sharpen incoming Kosovo Forces soldier's non-lethal weapons skills

By Sgt. Rocco DeFilippis Marine Forces Europe Marine Forces Europe

HOHENFELS, Germany – Three instructors from Marine Forces Europe (MFE) lent their non-lethal weapons skills to soldiers from the California National Guard during a five-day training evolution here.

The MFE instructors teamed up with non-lethal weapons (NLW) experts from the Joint Multinational Training Command to provide the soldiers with education on a variety of crowd-control techniques and the employment of non-lethal munitions as the soldiers prepare for an upcoming deployment as part of the Kosovo Force (KFOR), the NATO-led international force responsible for establishing a safe and secure environment in Kosovo.

The soldiers will soon rotate into Kosovo to join some 15,000 international forces under the command of NATO, which have been present in Kosovo since June 1999.

As U.S. European Commandds (EUCOM) executive agent for NLW, this recent training marks one of MFE's many roles in developing and implementing training and education on the capabilities and employment of NLW throughout the European area of responsibility (AOR).

"This is a real-world mission that these soldiers are going into, and that is why this education is so important," said Eric Damm, EUCOM NLW program combatant commander liaison officer. "We support all kinds of training, but when you are doing pre-deployment training, you go that extra mile to ensure they have the tools they need to accomplish their mission."

For this particular training evolution, the MFE NLW program brought in two instructors from stateside Marine Corps units to augment their mobile training team (MTT). Damm said the ability to network within the NLW training community provides their program with multiple benefits in times of increased training and operational tempos.

"It's beneficial to be able to pull in that variety of experience from throughout the Marine Corps," Damm said. By bringing in instructors with varying backgrounds such as infantry and military law enforcement, Damm said his educational contact teams are able to provide a dynamic training and education experience.

This background of varied expertise combined with the realistic training facilities at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center here made for a joint-training environment that benefited both the soldiers receiving the training and the instructors leading it.

"When professionals from one branch work with professionals with other services, itts always a positive experience," said Gunnery Sgt. Frank S. McCumber, Military Police Company, 4th Marine Logistics Group training chief and certified NLW instructor. "When you get the chance to work with the other services, it not only benefits the individuals who receive the training, but it also makes you a more well-rounded instructor."

Working with peers from throughout the Marine Corps helps instructors keep their skills sharp and current said Staff Sgt. Roberto Cervantes, joint service support staff noncommissioned officer with the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate in Quantico, Va.

"The NLW community has always been a close-knit network because we always try to assist each other when we can," Cervantes said. "These Marines bring with them the freshest, newest ideas so in working together, we are able to keep our [tactics, techniques and procedures] as current as possible."

Although the Marines worked with their Army counterparts to educate National Guard troops, this type of training opportunity is one of the many kinds encountered by the MFE NLW team.

Damm said the Marines continue to rely on the assets and instructors at MFE and the network of instructors throughout the Marine Corps to accomplish their educational mission and provide soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines within the EUCOM AOR with this valuable NLW training.

"Because we are the executive agent in the AOR, we have built up a core of expertise," Damm said. "We have sent our Marines to the schools so that we have that in-house capability, but now we are also developing and perfecting that reach-back capability, to pull qualified instructors from wherever they may be within the Marine Corps, so we can accomplish our mission here in Europe."

With the growing importance of NLW and the flexibility they provide commanders in a variety of missions and situations, these Marines said they realize the importance of the tools they have to offer.

"They are more likely to use these techniques when they are deployed for a mission like KFOR," said Staff Sgt. Emir Hadzic, MFE non-lethal weapons instructor and training chief. "Instead of going in there locked and loaded with only lethal means, NLW gives the commander the leverage and tools to evaluate the situation and employ their forces in a way that can deescalate a situation and accomplish the mission."

In addition to educational missions like this, MFE accomplishes its NLW mission by increasing awareness of non-lethal capabilities, enhancing the interoperability of U.S. and allied forces throughout the AOR.

Through this program, Marine Forces Europe is able to provide warfighters with education and training on a family of non-lethal weapon systems with a range of capabilities across the full spectrum of threats and crises.