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Navy to stop pepper spraying sailors every 3 years

Fire Controlman 3rd Class Anthony Gadzicki is sprayed with oleoresin capsicum, a pepper spray, as part of a training exercise for his ship's security team.

CHASE MARTIN/U.S. NAVY PHOTO

By BROCK VERGAKIS | The Virginian-Pilot (Tribune News Service) | Published: November 21, 2017

NORFOLK, Va. — The Navy wants its sailors to feel the burn – just not more than once.

The Navy will no longer require sailors to be pepper sprayed every three years after the chief of naval operations received complaints that it wasn’t necessary to repeatedly undergo the painful experience after the first time it’s done as part of force protection training.

Adm. John Richardson announced the policy change Tuesday in a video posted on Facebook. Richardson said he was responding to conversations he had with the crew aboard the destroyer USS Gridley in Everett, Wash., a few days earlier.

“You have to get pepper sprayed in the face every three years, and as I was talking with the team on Gridley, it seemed to me that once is enough there,” Richardson said in the video. “Once you get that experience you’ll never forget it, and you’ll be able to fight through pepper spray for the rest of your career.”

Sailors who carry pepper spray as part of their duties are required to experience what being sprayed with it feels like.

Pepper spray can cause breathing difficulty, tears, temporary blindness and eyes to close. The effects of the spray typically last for about 30 to 45 minutes after initial contact, according to the Navy. A Navy video about the pepper spray training shows one sailor saying that being sprayed with it felt like there was a blow torch next to her face and that she couldn’t breathe.

Navy photographs show sailors aboard ships being sprayed directly in the eyes and then having to perform self-defense moves against an attacker.

Richardson said the policy change is evidence that he listens to sailors when he meets with them, and that sometimes changes can occur quickly as a result.

“If there are any of these requirements out there that you think don’t make sense or are ridiculous just let me know,” he said. “Some of these things are quick kills.”

©2017 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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