Drill aims to keep riots from turning deadly
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina — At Staff Sgt. Cory Bourn’s command, a group of soldiers holding shields dropped to their knees while a second group loaded their weapons and fired at targets.
Boink! came the sound of rubber pellets hitting metal targets. The soldiers repeated the routine, testing the feel of rubber bullets of different sizes in different weapons.
Although baton tactics, crowd control skills and the use of nonlethal ammunitions are not what peacekeepers in Bosnia need every day, they are receiving the training so they can control a violent situation without fatally injuring anyone.
“If there’s a riot here, I’m not gonna use lethal ammunition,” said Bourn of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, a unit of the Indiana National Guard.
“We’re trying to have capabilities for crowd control and riot control and this is just one of the means.”
After completing the training, the troops will be “proficient at a fundamental level,” he said. “It’s adequate enough for some of the basic skills.”
Sgt. William Lincks of Company A, a corrections officer from Indianapolis, has already had some training with the nonlethal rounds at his civilian job.
On one occasion, Lincks got to see firsthand how such training can help.
“We had a riot in one of our cell houses,” he said.
“You only had to fire a couple of [rubber pellets] and the inmates pretty much got a hint.”
While Bosnia and Herzegovina is rather peaceful, nonlethal weapons training can come in handy. In March, during the previous SFOR rotation, U.S. peacekeepers in Bosnia were sent to Kosovo to help calm protests that turned violent and resulted in several deaths.
“Situations like that do arise and we have to be prepared,” Bourn said.
Bourn, also of Indianapolis, spent two weeks learning about riot control and nonlethal ammunitions so he could become an instructor. Last week, he and another instructor taught three companies of soldiers the basics during an eight-hour course.
Soldiers learned the different rounds and their use, and the need to avoid head and neck area. They also found that large rubber pellets can be lethal if fired from a distance of less than 10 meters.
“Using regular buckshot rounds, [a weapon] kicks like a mule,” Lincks said. But with the rubber rounds “there was almost no recoil,” he said.
Getting a feel for how different it was to aim with visors down on helmets was also helpful, he added.
Spc. Ryan Ferrell and other infantry troops in Bosnia spend their days patrolling, searching for persons indicted for war crimes, looking for weapons caches, and collecting weapons and ammunitions from people who voluntarily turn them in.
But they cannot fire them.
“It was pretty good training to get to actually fire nonlethal rounds to get the confidence level up in the event we have to [use them],” said Ferrell, a conservation law enforcement student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis when not deployed.
“Our job is to fight wars and here in the Balkans, it’s a totally different mission and we’re trying to adapt the best we can,” Bourn said.