Oct. 12, 2016 —
The students gather around in anticipation of what they are going to see, and eventually feel.
After a brief countdown, the instructor pulls the trigger. There is a distinct "pop" and, in less time than it takes to blink, the buzzing sound of electricity fills the void.
Being tased is a requirement for every student as part of the Department of Defense Inter-service Nonlethal Individual Weapons Instructor Course. According to Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jeff Mueller, course chief, it's the part students anticipate and dread the most.
"They know it's coming, so their anxiety level is through the roof," he said.
The students are sprayed with pepper spray (oleoresin capsicum) on day three and are tased on day four of the 10-day course, Mueller said. "If they can get through to the first Friday, they are good," he said.
This was not the first time being tased for Staff Sgt. Maria Gonzalez, a National Guard internment/resettlement specialist with 606th Military Police Company, El Paso, Texas.
"Last time I was tased was four years ago, so it humbles you," she said. "It's always good to have that refresher, so you don't lose that instructor aspect of it."
The course covers a lot in the short time they are on Fort Leonard Wood, Mueller said, including five academic and seven practical application evaluations on topics ranging from interpersonal communication skills to mechanical advantage control holds to non-lethal weapons.
"Non-lethal weapons is a monster," Mueller said. "It can be the baton you have, to the OC spray, your heavy devices which is the taser, all the way up to, last but not least, your munitions."
The course is open to all services, including civilian agencies and international students, and is not limited to just military police.
"A lot of military police get the quotas, but it is open to anyone, because anybody can be tasked with doing a crowd control formation," Mueller said.
Mueller added the course is good for National Guard Soldiers who often respond to civil disturbances, such as the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland.
Marine Cpl. Mark McNulty, traffic investigator assigned to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, said this was a course he has wanted to attend for a while.
"I thought it would be good to go into other countries and be able to train them, but now that I am in the course, I see the benefits of where I can take this into a PMO (provost marshal office) setting and apply that non-lethal training to train my Marines," he said. " Hopefully, I can give them information that can save their lives or somebody else's."
"That's one of the best things," Mueller said, "to know that we are the instructor trainers. It is great to say I am one of seven people in the entire Department of Defense to make these people into instructors."
Making non-lethal weapons instructors is only part of what Mueller said this course is about.
"The end state of this course is to go back, and first and foremost, to be an adviser to their command on all things non-lethal," he said. "Commanders will have to make the on-the-ground decisions, and they need to be able to look to someone who can speak intelligently and comfortably to it."