Security Forces get pepper sprayed
By Capt. Gabe Johnson, 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 08, 2009
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Security Forces members at the 162nd Fighter Wing here are learning the effects of pepper spray first hand in compliance with new Air Force directives.
Across the service, active duty and Reserve component Security Forces Airmen are getting sprayed in the face with the non-lethal law enforcement tool to learn its effects and gain awareness of what they have to contend with should they be sprayed by an attacker.
Published Feb. 18, the new Air Force Manual 31-222, which governs the use of force, states that all Security Forces members must experience the spray at least once in their military career.
"When they get hit with pepper spray, their eyes are going to involuntarily shut, they're going to get a really intense burning sensation in their skin, and they'll have difficulty breathing," said Senior Master Sgt. Mark Milbourn, a Security Forces supervisor at the Air Guard unit.
"It was the worst 45 minutes of my life," said Milbourn who experienced the active agent earlier in his career. "It is the worst, intense pain I've ever felt - ever. You feel like you can't open your eyes or breathe, and then you start to hyperventilate."
While feeling the effects Airmen have to fight against a simulated perpetrator while taking voice commands and retaining their weapons and control of the situation.
Senior Airman Joe De Vos and Army Specialist Jose Zavala, a Security Forces augmentee, were sprayed here April 7. They were the first of many in their squadron who will experience the active agent within the next month.
Blinded, burning and out of breath both trainees shouted, "Get back!" and held off their simulated attackers who pushed and jabbed them with striking pads.
"I think they did really well. They just took it. They didn't run off. They fought through it, maintained control of their weapons and the situation and that's all we can ask for," said Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Wallace, a Security Forces member who served as a simulated assailant.
"It's good training to get the effects and see how it is," said Airman De Vos. "My strategy was to stay calm, and do what I had to do. This is my job, this is my life, and I'm going to defend it."
Help soon came in the form of an open fire hydrant where the trainees began to wash the pepper spray out of their eyes. De Vos and Zavala took turns standing in front of a powerful stream of water.
"Soap wouldn't even help them now. Cool rushing water and time - that's the only way to find relief," said Milbourn.