GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – The 17th Security Forces Squadron has added one more weapon to their arsenal, but this one is non-lethal: the electronic control device commonly known as a Taser.
Members of the 17 SFS underwent day-long training Tuesday to be able to safely and properly operate the device, which can be used as a non-lethal defensive tactic or to ensure compliance.
Unlike current non-lethal options like pepper spray, the Taser doesn't rely solely on pain. A stun with an electronic control device causes neuromuscular incapacitation - actually causing muscles to stop working for a few seconds. Contrary to popular belief, the device doesn't cause electrocution.
During the training, 17 SFS members learned how the device works as well as safety procedures to prevent injury to subjects or officers. Additionally, the group practiced using the device in a hypothetical situation. Finally, volunteers from the group elected to demonstrate the device's effects.
"Don't worry, your ride's not going to be that hard," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Myers, who instructed the class. "But you'll feel it, believe me."
Five 17 SFS members volunteered to be "tased," while others helped the subjects to the training mat to avoid injury. Combat lifesavers were on hand in case of a bad fall, but not only did all five volunteers hit the mat safely, but all five were up and walking around less than a minute later (in a real-life use of the device, subjects would have been in handcuffs well before they were up and about). Still, it was not an experience the volunteers would soon forget.
"I never want to be tased again," said Airman Tara Port, the only female volunteer. "There are no words that can explain it."
Additionally, many members of the class volunteered to experience the effects of a "drive stun," an arcing electric shock which also helps incapacitate the subject. While the demonstration drive stun lasted less than a second and felt like a light punch to the arm, in actual deployment the effects would be prolonged.
Much care was taken during both the demonstrations and the training to ensure that safety procedures were learned well and followed always. The biggest danger to the subject, according to Sergeant Myers, was the possibility of striking an object or a hard surface as he or she fell. Meanwhile, those using the electronic control device had to take care while removing the Taser darts from the subject - properly removed, they leave less injury than a needle's prick - and the subject is almost always numb from the stun while they are removed, further lessening the pain - but if the officer is not careful they could cause pain and bleeding.
As always, safety is the highest priority - both the safety of the officers and the subjects, and most importantly the safety of Goodfellow Air Force Base.