BOEBLINGEN, Germany – The U.S. European Command showcased its non-lethal weapons program during a summit and capabilities exercise held at area bases here, June 21.
This year’s Summit and Capability Exercise focused on current and emerging non-lethal weapons systems and techniques and is considered the largest of its kind for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe, which serves as the European Command’s non-lethal weapons executive agent.
“The Summit and CAPEX are significant because it is the first of its kind for European Command,” said Lt. Col. Laura Falkenbach, non-lethal weapons program director, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe.
“We have conducted small scale demonstrations before, but this is the first time we conducted a comprehensive non-lethal weapons event for the European Command staff, component staff members and our European and African allies and partner nations," she said. "It is an important demonstration of our interoperability and cooperation.”
More than 100 U.S. service members, as well as officers from more than 20 countries attended the summit, that provided an overview of both the DoD and EUCOM non-lethal weapons programs.
“The EUCOM program was established to increase the awareness and understanding of non-lethal weapons and capabilities; enhance interoperability and operational capabilities, and improve EUCOM’s non-lethal weapons capabilities,” Falkenbach said.
Col. Jim B. Brown, commander 18th Military Police Brigade based in Mannheim, Germany, was the guest speaker during the summit. Brown has extensive experience in employing non-lethal capabilities in Kosovo and Iraq.
He described his experience with non-lethal equipment and techniques and the success he and his soldiers achieved.
“It is all about achieving compliance,” Brown said. “Synchronized with initiative you can come up with intimidation and avoid having to shoot someone.”
The CAPEX was held after the summit and highlighted non-lethal weapons and tactics with a focus on humanitarian aid point scenarios to include crowd control, vehicle check points, convoy operations and area denial.
One of the items showcased was the vehicle lightweight arresting device. The VLAD is a net with a spiked strip at one end and when deployed in front of a vehicle, it brings it to a controlled stop, without injuring the occupants.
This would provide a non-lethal opportunity for troops to distinguish between a confused driver and terrorist bomber at vehicle checkpoints.
“Although the VLAD has been around for some time, the manufacturer has developed a self deploying model,” said Eric Damm, EUCOM non-lethal weapons engagement officer, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Europe.
“Because vehicle borne improvised explosive devices are a huge problem for our deployed forces, I believe this is a key technology,” he noted.
Other non-lethal systems displayed were: the X-26 taser, FN-303 less lethal launching system, active denial system, medium and long range acoustic devices, green laser ocular disrupter, hellfire spotlight, and numerous non-lethal munitions.
Approximately 50 Marines assigned to 2nd Platoon, Marine Corps Security Forces Company from Rota, Spain and 20 soldiers assigned to 1st Armored Division, 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group and the Joint Multinational Readiness Command, based in Germany, worked as the ground forces during the demonstration.
The demonstration was preceded by more than a week of related non-lethal weapons training.
During this time the Marines and soldiers were exposed to crowd control tactics, Oleoresin Capsicum (pepper spray) certification, fired various non-lethal munitions such as 12 gauge blunt force rounds and threw rubber pellet grenades.
“I think training was extensive and the soldiers’ and Marines’ interest was apparent,” said Capt. Roberto Rodriguez, CAPEX coordinator, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe.
“There were many questions, discussions, and excitement about using some of the new weapons systems,” he explained.
The soldiers and Marines will take this training back to their commands, providing them skills that are applicable to today’s operational environment.
“It’s like a new tool for the tool box,” said Lance Cpl. Justin Moody, 2nd Platoon, Marine Corps Security Forces Company from Rota, Spain. “It is something new we could definitely use.”