The Smell of Hell, Army Pepper Spray Training

Joining the military and law enforcement means accepting the dangers and assaults you may encounter in the line of duty. This includes the more intense ones like ambushes, being covered in bullets, and possibly being surprised by bombings. This also includes the slightly less extreme cases, like being filmed receiving not-so-pleasant puns from civilians for doing your job or dealing with protesters and being splashed in the face with pepper spray.

The job of United States military training is to prepare recruits to know exactly what to do when these scenarios occur in real life. And since experience is the best teacher, why not experience the dreaded, painful, unforgettable and probably traumatic OC spray training?

Dante’s 10th Circle (OC Spray)

Oleoresin capsicum spray, OC spray, popularly known as pepper spray, is a tear or tear agent. It is a compound that irritates the eyes, causing a burning sensation, pain, and possibly temporary blindness. These are typically used in riot control, crowd control, and self-defense, even against dogs and bears.

How it works is that the inflammatory effects of the spray cause the eyes to close. This temporary loss of vision allows officers to easily subdue subjects or give people in danger time to flee and escape. In addition, discomfort and burning in the throat and lungs can cause shortness of breath. Combined with the eye irritation, it would be quite difficult to focus on anything other than the pain. This is precisely what the training wanted to avoid, that officers and soldiers be disoriented and unable to perform their duty.

Airman 1st Class DeAaron Alexander received Oleoresin Capsicum Level 1 contamination from Senior Airman Daniel Miller Feb. 27, 2015, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. (United States Air Force, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Despite all of this, OC spray is not lethal and the effects can usually be lessened by running a direct stream of water into the eyes to flush out the chemicals. Its average effect can last up to 30 minutes.

The formation of fate

During the training, the trainees line up on the field and pass one by one in front of the instructors. The instructors each hold an aluminum can. Once it’s your turn, you stand with your arms at your side as the officer blasts the Z of Agony in your face for half a second, about 36 inches away from you. Then, when the pain begins to set in, you will hear the scream urging you to take action and complete a series of five assessment stations. You do all of this while trying to keep your eyes open and your composure and sanity so you don’t stop dead in your tracks and beg someone to please splash water on your face.

The trainee also has to fake a threat, and when it’s all said and done, you can finally wash your face and hope you’ve successfully removed all the chemicals. Otherwise, it will come back with a vengeance once you take a shower and the water reactivates the remnants of OC.

As an article from the US Army website writes:

Military Police and DACP had to learn to deal with the effects of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC), also known as “pepper spray”. Participants are sprayed to understand the effects of the OC spray, then must complete a class under the influence of OC to better prepare them for accidental cross-contamination and build their confidence.

Finally, you get the required certification and can wear that cartridge on your belt with pride. You are now OC’d certified.

U.S. Army Spc. Andrew Detwiler, a military policeman with Headquarters and Headquarters, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, holds his eye open as a medic flushes it with water to neutralize the effects of oleoresin capsicum spray. (Spc. Robert Holland, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

“I’d rather be shot than sprayed with OC again.”

Our own Alex Hollings also shared his personal experience when he had the opportunity to participate in several interesting and exciting training revolutions, including being pepper sprayed. Here is his story:

As I approached the field we were to train in, I couldn’t help but feel a little like I was walking onto the stage of a military-themed episode of Nickelodeon’s Double Dare…and even as I watched a handful of Marines perform the course in front of me, I remained blissfully unaware of the horror I was about to endure until I was next. After all, the whole course could be completed in just a few minutes… how bad could that be?

Then I was sprayed in the face. The Military Police Master Sergeant in charge of conducting the course threw a perfectly executed “Z” over my eyes, nose and mouth, instantly leaving me gasping for air and shutting my eyes tight. I had seen a number of Marines in front of me instantly freeze after being hit by spray, a move I considered not tactically wise, as a real life or death situation probably wouldn’t allow you a such opportunity; so i responded to the sudden, searing pain that engulfed my face with pure instinct and adrenaline…and attacked the man who sprayed me with a bull rushed, double leg take down, despite clear instructions shouted out by other instructors who were trying to corral me within the set parameters of the exercise.

The staff sergeant, understanding as he was, threw me out of his mind, called me colorful names and ordered me to get up and pass after the first obstacle of the course. I attempted to shout an affirmative response, only to find that my ability to breathe was still quite limited. Instead, I gurgled something, moaned, and drove off.

Honestly, the course was quite easy. Hit this, dodge that, kick that guy, don’t let the other smash you in the face with that padded club, the low crawl, and so on. At that time, I was already a brown belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts program, which meant that although I was a below average fighter, I still had a lot of experience. in this type of course. As I neared the end, the pain hadn’t eased, but the impending victory numbed the burn a bit – it was almost over and I had almost won.

Alex Hollings after his OC spray training. (Alex Hollings/SOFREP)

The problem, I quickly realized, with the end of the course was that it left me with no task to focus on. Instead of sheer determination driving me through the pain until the next challenge, I was now walking around in a circle, trying not to put too much snot on my skimpy shirt and trying to keep my composure around thirty other Marines, each doing the same thing. in various ways.

(You can read his whole painfully entertaining story here.)

Kristen T. Prall