Friday, September 11, 2009

Oleoresin capsicum

Tuesday afternoon the Soldiers in Headqaurters and Bravo Companies experienced the 'joys' of O.C. Thursday the Soldiers in Alpha and Charlie Companies suffered the same fate. Whereas Soldiers were given an option as to whether to be tazed, there was no element of choice involved in the O.C. training.

Oleoresin capsicum.

Pepper spray.

"An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control," published in 1998 by the European Parliament Scientific and Technological Options Assessment (STOA) had this to say about pepper spray:

"The effects of peppergas are far more severe, including temporary blindness which last from 15-30 minutes, a burning sensation of the skin which last from 45 to 60 minutes, upper body spasms which force a person to bend forward and uncontrollable coughing making it difficult to breathe or speak for between 3 to 15 minutes. For those with asthma, taking other drugs, or subject to restraining techniques which restrict the breathing passages, there is a risk of death. The Los Angeles Times has reported at least 61 deaths associated with police use of pepper spray since 1990 in the USA, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) documented 27 deaths in custody of people sprayed with peppergas in California alone, since 1993."

Wow. That was published over 10 years ago now. Lovely stuff, O.C., eh?

And it wasn't just as if people were sprayed in the face with this stuff (they were), each person had to run an obstacle course -- blinded or semi-blind -- which included having to fight off and/or subdue attackers or other unruly persons.

Since this obstacle course involved the use of a riot baton, which is a weapon (albeit less-than-lethal, usually), I did not participate in the training. As a consequence, then, I didn't get O.C.'d, either. There was only one other person in the whole Battalion down here at Summer Camp - The Haunting who didn't get sprayed (he'd had Lasik surgery on his eyes less than a month ago).

I have taken some grief already for not participating, but I'm very grateful I managed to avoid the experience.

Everyone who went through it appeared to be in agony, if not during the obstacle course itself, then certainly when they got to the decontamination station (chest-height shower heads spraying cool water). The water activated and spread the contamination even as it diluted the water-based pepper spray.

I positioned myself at the end of the obstacle course, equipped with many bottles of Johnson's Baby Shampoo (the only stuff that works, evidently because of its 'no more tears' formula) and lots of tri-fold paper towels. As each victim came off the course, I gave him or her a towel soaked in the shampoo to lay across the eyes (no rubbing!), in the attempt to get the shampoo into the eyes themselves.

It was awful, watching people I've grown to care about suffer like that.

Some had a fairly easy time of it, to be honest, but the vast majority of the hundreds who went through the training, looked awful as they came off the course, and got worse, briefly, as they went through the decon process. A few became highly agitated and needed to be physically restrained by other Soldiers as they were at the water station. Some convinced themselves they couldn't breathe.

One Soldier got into the course and ran from the area to the water station before finishing. He was forced to go back through the course after everyone else had finished; this meant he again got sprayed. Poor guy.

He again got part-way through the obstacle course, and again did not finish.

It was brutal training.

A couple of guys who got O.C.'d on Tuesday were still having problems with their eyes more than 24 hours later.

Because I was around so many people who were in so much pain, and there was so little I could do to make the situation better, I found myself once again very grateful for all the people in my life over the past 30 years who've gone to lots of Al-Anon meetings, and who have taught me that "messiah" is not part of *my* job description.

The O.C. obstacle course lasted three hours on Tuesday, and more than four on Thursday.

I was completely wiped out after each session.

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thank you for this post. It is painful, but a helpful thing to understand this training, these experiences our people undergo. It is more than Baby Shampoo on a towel that was offered!

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