TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. – “Forward, MARCH!”
From hundreds of yards down the street, the mob could hear the Marines coming. Outfitted in full riot gear complete with non-lethal weapons as they marched through the city, they kept the platoon in step by beating their batons against the plastic shields in thundering unison.
“Platoon, HALT!” ordered the platoon commander from behind his face shield to halt the ominous cadence.
The Marines took their positions, forming a column of shields resembling modern-day legionnaires against the unruly group of civilians who refused to cooperate.
Although this exercise was only a mock scenario against Marines role-playing in the streets of the Range 200 urban warfare training facility May 24, it was the culmination of a two-week long riot control and non-lethal weapons training course for Marines of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment.
“Today's exercises were to expand on the training from the past two weeks - this is kind of the capstone for it all,” said Capt. Steven K. Ford, India Battery commander. “This is where we have role players out there with the Marines to give them a feel for the real thing. They are also being evaluated by my instructors, who just got back from the Department of Defense school for non-lethal weapons.”
Throughout their two weeks of training, Marines learned a myriad of disciplines including crowd control, holds, baton instruction and techniques, handcuffing, riot control and demonstrations of non-lethal weapons and munitions.
The two platoons individually took part in four different scenarios at the range designed for situations which may occur domestically or abroad. They had to control peaceful protests, unruly crowds, and an unknown and possibly hostile crowd during a voting session and humanitarian relief efforts to hand out food.
Marines were evaluated by their instructors on a number of criteria, including platoon formations and movement, takedowns and detainments, techniques and procedures, judgment for use of force and how smoothly the Marines handled each situation overall.
“For this training, the Marines all were sprayed with oleoresin capsicum, or OC spray,” said Ford, a 36-year-old Gage, Okla., native. “Everyone was sprayed for either their level 1 or level 2 certification.”
Marines of India Battery conducted this training as not only an introductory course for their new Marines, but also to refresh Marines who have already completed the training as the battery gears up to deploy to Japan as part of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in coming months, said Ford.
“It's been going well and it seems all the Marines seem to be getting everything well,” said Lance Cpl. Kevin T. Collins, fire team leader, Guns Platoon. “Besides getting sprayed with OC, doing this riot training has been fairly challenging. Today lets us see if this were a real life situation how we might handle it.”
“We have overcome hurdles over a lot of hills these past two weeks,” Collins said. “Role players out here gives us an opportunity to test out knowledge and receive feedback,” he went on. “But in reality we would probably see many more people out for things such as this.”
“We really can't see our full potential out here just because we have to be careful with the other Marines; we use simulated rounds and inert OC so we don't see our whole effect as a platoon,” he said.
Marines spent nearly eight hours in the desert heat at Range 200 as both platoons cycled through the four scenarios throughout the day.
“The Marines are doing great learning this, because for some it's their first time being exposed to this. For others its old stuff, but they're learning a lot,” Ford said. “Marines like doing different things. We love our artillery jobs, but when we go do something else, it's fun and it beats busting rust off the weapons. It's a good change and rejuvenates them a little bit, and they have a good time.”