Photo Information

Sgt. Logan Wilburn, 2nd platoon sergeant, Bravo Company, Marine Barracks Washington, assaults a training dummy after getting sprayed in the face with a potent chemical during nonlethal tactics training at Marine Barracks Washington, Feb. 17. Logan, among many others, would qualify as a user and instructor of oleoresin capsicum, or OC spray.

Photo by Cpl. Jacob H. Harrer

Marines fight through burning pain to qualify as OC spray instructors

17 Feb 2009 | Cpl. Jacob H. Harrer

On a crisp day, Marines laughed as they practiced takedowns and holds on each other on the athletic field of Marine Barracks in preparation for a training exercise. One hour later, laughter would turn to tears as the Marines were sprayed with one of the most potent non-lethal chemical agents used by law enforcement.

Marines from Marine Barracks Washington and Marine Security Guard School qualified as instructors for the use of OC spray, or oleoresin capsicum, Feb. 17.

“The purpose of this training is to teach us how to employ OC in an effective manner,” said Cpl. Flynn Dillard, corporal of the guard. “It’s important that we realize the consequences of using it on somebody, and we have an idea of how that person will react.”

While OC spray training is mandatory for Marines who serve in any of the three security companies of the Barracks, ceremonial marchers also participated in the qualification.

Bravo Company sent five Marines to become instructors in order to qualify the entire company for the use of OC spray, said Staff Sgt. Samuel Bass, 1st platoon sergeant, Bravo Company. As a secondary mission, ceremonial marchers must be prepared to conduct riot control. Bravo Company plans to become the first of the ceremonial marching companies to become proficient in the use of OC spray.

The Marines in line appeared cheerful in spite of the vicious training they were about to receive. They were briefed about the effects of the spray, and they anticipated the burning sensations in their eyes and on their skin, along with involuntary movements, tightening in the chest, excess mucus, and loss of control.

“It’s the most painful experience of your life,” said Cpl. Terry Mandrell, a guard Marine who had previously qualified. “There have been women who have given birth who say OC is more painful.”

“It’s brutal, it’s intense… it’s a malicious act,” Dillard added.

Before being sprayed, Marines paired up and stood with their hands behind their backs. They were then asked a series of questions confirming they understood what was happening before closing their eyes and waiting. The instructors then stood at a distance, holding the canister as far away from their body as possible before squirting a stream of liquid directly onto the student’s eyelids, turning the skin bright red wherever it made contact. The students were then instructed to open their eyes.

Immediately, the Marines sprinted through a training course, taking down training dummies who were dressed in bright red protective body suits. Marines had to execute correct non-lethal techniques and spraying procedures while coping with the adverse effects of the spray. The training ended after the pair of students used teamwork to take down a dummy.

Once they completed the course, Marines ran to a washing area, where they drenched themselves with garden hoses. Petty Officer 1st Class Guillermina Lorenzoni, battalion corpsman, offered soap to the frantic students.

Marines with crimson, mucus-soaked faces could be seen pacing around the field. Several Marines gathered around an electric fan to cool their burning faces.

"It’s painful, very painful,” said Sgt. Logan Wilburn, 2nd platoon sergeant, Bravo Company. “Burning.”

“Hey, there’s a breeze!” said Cpl. Hudson Bull to Wilburn as they both turned to face the cold wind blowing from the west.

By the end of the event, Marines still squinted as the OC spray began to wear off. The battalion corpsman chuckled as the students walked back to the Barracks.

“Wait ‘til they take a shower tonight,” Lorenzoni said. “The water will activate the OC spray, and the burning will come back.”