103rd Security Forces takes one in the eye

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Josh Mead
  • Public Affairs, 103rd Airlift Wing
Outside building 78, a hullabaloo was created by 20 security forces personnel on base April 4. The sight consisted of tears, mucus and burning faces that brought a sobering reality to the security forces training requirements.
     Oleoresin Caspicum, or OC, is the pepper spray utilized by security forces. "OC is required for less than lethal conditions, we are required to use an escalation of force, this training is necessary to understand the effects of the OC," said Tech. Sgt Jerry Lashway, security forces craftsman, 103rd Security Forces Squadron.
     There is a lot of training on what you can use with OC because it is flammable, so if we had TASERs in our inventory, you cannot spray them then tase them or tase them then spray them. You run the risk of igniting the pepper spray, said Lashway. This training consists of spraying OC in the face of the security forces person, then they are required to defend themselves. So we give them a training baton, and have them strike a padded shield while giving verbal direction to the target. After about 30 seconds of striking, they had to go over to a secondary suspect to handcuff them. It's very difficult to open your eyes after you have been sprayed, so it takes some time to get used to.
     "They sprayed us about two feet way from the face," said Staff Sgt. Ashley Paul, security forces journeyman, 103rd Security Forces Squadron. "Hopefully, this goes away quick because it's still burning but, I can speak so that's good."
     "It takes your breath away at first. You actually are labored to breathe. It affects the mucus membrane so it shuts down your eyes. Your sinuses start to flow. It's not lethal; it's not going to kill you. There are times, though, you wish it would; it feels that way, but you just have to learn to persevere through it," said Lashway.
The training may seem extreme, however, in order to carry OC as a less-lethal weapon, this training is necessary. If the deployer of OC happens to catch back spray from the wind or is inadvertently sprayed by backup as they try to detain a suspect, it helps to know what their capabilities and limitations are after being sprayed. This knowledge can be the determining factor that allows security forces to stay safe.
     "If your partner is sprayed and you get caught in the crossfire, you are still going to have to fight back," said Paul.
     Oleoresin Caspicum is a less-lethal alternative to disable an assailant and help in riot-control. It works by stimulating nerves in the eye to induce tears, pain and even temporary blindness. This lachrymatory agent is comprised of capsaicin extracted from chili peppers using an organic solvent such as ethanol. The solvent is then evaporated and what is left is a wax-like resin. It is then combined with an emulsifier and pressurized to make pepper spray.
     Getting sprayed is required only once to carry OC. There is an annual written exam to show competency. The initial class consists of effective ranges of the spray, how long it can last for, and how much pain is actually involved. The pain associated with OC is measured in Scoville Heat Units, a very familiar term to those who fancy hot peppers and hot sauce. Oddly enough, Oleoresin capsicum can also be used in foods where the flavor and appeal are desired without visible pepper specks.
     The need to use OC on food might not be a safer alternative to hot sauce while deployed. However, as a less-lethal alternative to physical force or armed force, it is quite effective. Proven by Airman 1st Class Michael Dickson, security forces journeyman, 103rd Security Forces Squadron, "I would much rather get hi with a TASER again."