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Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Hollingsworth, a Marine Air Control Squadron 1 radar technician, fights his way through a circuit course after being sprayed with Oleoresin Capsicum, May 21, 2009 in the martial arts instructor course at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz. Each student went through a nine station circuit course after being sprayed with the nonlethal weapon.(Photo by Cpl. Laura A. Mapes)

Photo by Cpl. Laura A. Mapes

Blind fury: Future MCMAP instructors fight back tears

28 May 2009 | Cpl. Laura A. Mapes

Students in a Marine Corps martial arts instructor course here worked through their sweat and tears to earn special training certificates May 21, 2009. 

The 15 green belt students in the course volunteered to be sprayed and certified to carry Oleoresin Capsicum spray, which is a nonlethal weapon used by law enforcement.

The circuit course was designed to show the Marines what it is like to work through stress and disorientation, said Poulin.

“The instructors are here to coach the students through each station,” said Warrant Officer Bradley Poulin, Marine Air Control 1 maintenance officer and martial arts instructor trainer. “As long as they don’t freak out, they will be fine. They just have to keep their eyes open.”

The OC course was set up with nine stations. After being sprayed, the Marines worked their way through each challenge, before being rewarded with water and decontamination.

At the first station Marines were sprayed in the face from about three paces away and had to correctly count a number of fingers held up by an instructor.

From there the students are guided to the next station by the sound of the instructors’ voices. Here, they test their muscle memory with upper body strikes and punches. The next station called for the Marines to practice knee strikes.

“I’m glad I did so much MCMAP before we did this (OC spray) course. I think that it helped me, because when you get sprayed, you can’t think clearly and your brain just doesn’t want to work,” said Cpl. Daniel Byrd, station armorer and student in the course.

At the next stop, students had to locate a rubber knife and defend themselves from knife-wielding instructors using proper techniques.

During the fifth portion of the circuit course, the students were guided under simulated barbed wire while low, back and high crawling with a rubber rifle.

The Marines fought their way through the next stations using lower leg strikes and weapons of opportunity, as well as subduing and handcuffing an opponent.

Once they completed the stations, each student was steered to a table at the opposite side of the field, where they had to write their name and answer two questions in writing: how do you feel, and what did you think of the OC spray circuit course?

This last station was designed to simulate writing orders, where Marines might debrief or write up orders under stress.

“This is the worst feeling ever, but it’s worth it because I know that I will never have to do it again,” said Cpl. Tony Ellerbe, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron range coach and student in the course.

Once all 15 students made it through the circuit course and were decontaminated, Poulin spoke with the Marines and commended them for completing the training.

“You all followed through with your commitment and you’ve finished the training,” said Poulin. “That is good to go Marines.”

The spray is not a requirement for graduating the class. However, once the students finish the training, they never have to requalify with the spray for any other training.

The instructor course is scheduled to graduate May 29, 2009 at 11 a.m. in the station chapel.

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Marine Corps Air Station Yuma