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News | Jan. 8, 2009

SOTG prepares Marines for nonlethal conflict

By Lance Cpl. John Faria II Marine Expeditionary

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – The recent riots in Greece showed the destructive power and unpredictable nature of mob violence. Meanwhile, a group of Marines here trained on nonlethal methods to respond to just such disturbances.

Special Operations Training Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, II MEF, trained Marines from 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, here Dec. 9.

During two weeks of training, SOTG instructors covered a variety of topics such as hand-to-hand takedowns, baton training, crowd dynamics and tactics for safely employing ranged nonlethal weapons to prepare their students to work in platoon-size riot formations.

“We teach everybody in formation to know every single position in that formation,” said Staff Sgt. Jefferson Davis, staff noncommissioned officer in charge with SOTG. “In the worst-case scenario where the platoon commander goes down, any one of those guys can go back there, pick up the megaphone and take charge of the platoon to keep them moving.”

Although the majority of class hours focused on the proper use of nonlethal techniques, one of the main lessons the students learned was the importance of using the lowest possible level of force to meet any threat.

“One of the great things you can learn from nonlethal training is knowing when to react and when not to react to deescalate the situation,” said 2nd Lt. Byron McCoy, platoon commander Company L, 3rd Bn. 2nd Marines “If you overreact, all you do is rile up the crowd and create a lot worse situation.”

The course taught that preventing conflict is a riot formation’s main goal, but still went to great lengths to prepare the Marines for the possibility of dealing with violent protestors.

In armed conflict, the mission of a Marine infantry unit is to locate, close with and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, but SOTG prepares students for a whole new range of potential missions where protection of human life is the first priority.

“Most people join the Marine Corps expecting to be that hard charger kicking in doors,” McCoy said. “Then you realize there’s a whole lot more to it, and it’s just as important as any other mission you get.”

McCoy also said that, although nonlethal engagements may not be traditionally associated with the Marine Corps, the training the Marines received from SOTG made them see how embracing new technologies gives Marines new ways to defend our nation.