Non-Lethal Weapon Demo Wraps Up Civilian Leaders' Trip
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
ROTA, Spain, June 13, 2004 Civilian leaders visiting here from throughout the United States looked on June 12 as Marines charged with providing anti- terrorism and force protection throughout Europe demonstrated how they use non- lethal weapons in their mission.
The leaders from business, academia and local government, all participants in the 2004 Joint Civilian Orientation Conference, got a firsthand look at tactics used by Marine Corps Security Force Company Europe.
Michael DiGiacomo, chief operating officer for the Neil D.
Levin Graduate Institute of International Relations and Commerce, checks out
some of the lethal and non-lethal weapons used by Marine Corps Security Force
Detachment Europe, June 12. Photo by Tech Sgt. Michael Buytas,
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The unit, based here, deploys throughout Europe, Eurasia and Africa to provide extra protection to military installations and ships during high-threat periods, Marine Maj. Frank Lugo Jr., the unit commander, told the group.
Lugo said the unit's 200 members stand ready to deploy within six hours to protect vital U.S. interests. Their mission, he explained, ranges from reinforcing vehicle entry control points to providing security for convoy operations to controlling unruly or violent crowds that pose a threat.
"They're used all over the world," said Navy Adm. Gregory Johnson, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe. "There's constantly a mission for them."
Since July 2002, the unit has conducted more than 250 anti-terrorism and force protection missions. "I walk on a cloud every day with the number of Marines I have and the missions they have done," Lugo said.
Last summer, for example, the company deployed to Monrovia, Liberia, to provide additional security at the U.S. Embassy. There, the Marines used one of what Lugo calls one of the most valuable tools at its disposal: non-lethal weapons.
These, he explained, are weapons and devices that intimidate or inflict pain or discomfort, but don't kill. They range from ear-splitting noises to pepper spray to sting-ball grenades to plastic bullets.
"We have an immense non-lethal capability here," Lugo told the group. "These weapons won't kill you, but they'll stop you in your tracks."
Lugo said non-lethal weapons help the Marines keep unruly mobs such as those that might surround a U.S. embassy, military installation or ship -- from turning violent. "We want to avoid pulling the trigger at all costs in a riot situation," he said.
The Marines resort to lethal weapons only in extreme cases, he said, but are armed with firepower ranging from M-2 .50-caliber machine guns to 9 mm pistols.
Johnson told the civilian leaders that sometimes the unit's mere presence is enough to quell an unruly mob. "An American Marine is a statement," he said. "It doesn't take many of them to get people to back down."
Cpl. John Calloway, team leader for Marine Corps Security Force Company Europe's 1st Platoon, told members of the group he witnessed that intimidation factor personally when he deployed with the unit to Liberia in August. Rebel groups had launched a civil war, and the company deployed to protect the U.S. embassy and other U.S. assets.
"The protests were never very violent," said Calloway, who conducted patrols through the city during the 110-day deployment. "I think part of it was the intimidation."
Armed with masks, flak vests, shin guards and body shields, the Marines demonstrated some of their tactics to the civilian leaders.
"We get loud and aggressive," said Sgt. Edward Skelly, a 2nd Platoon squad leader. "We try to get a mental edge that says, 'Hey, if you don't need to be here, you need to leave.'"
"You notice a general reluctance to still be there," said Lance Cpl. Aaron Taylor, who also served in Liberia. "The crowd starts to fall back and disperse."
Tom Pepin, president, chief executive officer and owner of the Pepin Distributing Company in Tampa, Fla., said he was impressed by the Marines' range of response measures. "Different situations call for different levels of force," he said. "Rather than overreacting to a situation, they employ all different means of engagement, from intimidation to cleaning up."
After visiting the Marines, members of the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference watched members of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment Rota demonstrate techniques they use to identify and destroy suspicious packages and enemy munitions such as improvised explosive devices.
The civilian leaders' stop in Rota topped off a weeklong whirlwind tour to see and learn about U.S. military operations and meet the men and women who carry them out.
The trip, which began at the Pentagon, included visits to Andrews Air Force Base, Md.; Ramstein Air Base, Germany; Forward Operating Base Eagle in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Rota.
Some of about 50 participants in the conference, like Joanne Udelf, president of a real estate investment company in La Jolla, Calif., said she joined the group out of a love of the military and a desire to know more about what they do.
"The civilian community doesn't understand our military or the caliber of the men and women in uniform," she said. "How can you not love the military? And how can you not want to learn more?"
Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald, deputy commander for U.S. European Command, accompanied the group throughout the visit. "This is the most important thing we do," Wald said, noting that the military has "no connectivity" to the civilian community and needs to make an effort to change that. "The American public needs to know what we're about," Wald said.
He said participants in the program will return to their communities to serve as "force multipliers" for the U.S. military, sharing their experiences and their pride in the armed forces.
He told the group it boils down to one thing: "young kids doing hard work."
"It's the level of professionalism and maturity that really makes us stand apart," said Brig. Gen. Thomas Csrnko, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Europe, during the group's visit to Azerbaijan to visit Navy SEAL training with their Azeri counterparts.
Richard Roper, founder and president of a public policy consulting firm in Newark, N.J., called the conference "an opportunity I wouldn't miss to observe the American military presence in an important part of the world."
Diane Garcia, owner and CEO of a Denver company that provides strategic planning and corporate development services, called the trip "overwhelming" and said it "exceeded everything" she expected.
"My biggest impression has been the quality of the people," said Steve Harlan, chairman of a real estate firm in Bethesda, Md. "These people are extremely well-trained and communicate that well."
Harlan said it's "hard to pick out a highlight" of the trip. "It's all been very good," he said. "I feel very lucky to be here."
"When you go back home, tell them what our soldiers are doing for them," Lt. Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, deputy commander of U.S. Army, Europe, told the group when it visited Forward Operating Base Eagle in Tuzla to observe peacekeeping operations. "What you see here is America our greatest resource. They're making a difference, and we have to take care of them."