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Tased and pepper sprayed

JBLM soldiers, airmen get physical during Dragon Fighter Academy

Specialist Tori Dennis, left, a military police student from the Military Police Battalion “Dragon Fighters,” participates in a nonlethal weapons training course for military police March 12 on JBLM. Photo Credit: Nathan Wilkes, JBLM Public Affairs.

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - Soldiers from the 504th Military Police Battalion "Dragon Fighters," 42nd Military Police Brigade and airmen from the 627th Security Forces Squadron participated in a nonlethal weapons training course for military police March 12 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The course, also known as Dragon Fighter Academy, provides joint training for military police and security forces service members on the proper use and effects of nonlethal weapons, such as tasers and oleoresin capsicum, also known as pepper spray.

"The Dragon Fighter Academy is an excellent joint opportunity for all of the law enforcement soldiers and airmen on JBLM," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Rafael Delvalle, a nonlethal weapons instructor from the 627th SFS. "By experiencing the pain firsthand, students will know what to expect and how to withstand the effects of the taser and OC spray."

Students begin the course with classroom instruction that includes the levels of force, nonlethal weapon principles, takedown techniques and de-escalation and arrest procedures.

"The goal of this course is to prepare these soldiers and airmen for any situation they might face while on duty," said Army Staff Sgt. Anthony Smith, noncommissioned officer in charge of the course. "Oftentimes, this course is the first major instruction for junior students and is certainly a rite of passage."

After the classroom portion is complete, students undergo exposure to the taser. Held on each side by course instructors, a third yells, "Taser, Taser, Taser!" A loud pop and the distinct sound of buzzing electricity fills the room as the students go rigid, yell out and are taken down to the floor.

"It's hard to describe the feeling, but it is kind of like a full-body cramp," said Army Pvt. Dylan Kiser, a military police student from the 504th MP Bn. "It was definitely shocking, but afterward I felt more relaxed and confident of the taser's function."

After being given a few minutes to catch their breath, students head outside to complete a series of tasks while under the effects of OC. After getting sprayed, students run a gauntlet conducting baton strikes, take downs, handcuffing assailants and diffusing potentially deadly situations.

"The exposure training these soldiers and airmen receive reemphasizes the levels of force and de-escalation techniques they have learned during the academy," said Army Lt. Col. Jeremy Kerfoot, 504th MP Bn. commander. "By experiencing the effects of nonlethal weapons, they will be better able to make informed decisions and have confidence in their equipment."

At the end of the gauntlet, red-faced students visited an eye wash station and gathered under the shade of nearby trees to cool off and reflect on their experiences.

"My face and eyes feel like I have a really bad sunburn, but it was worth it," said Pvt. Ashley DeLare-Ryden, a military police student from the 504th MP Bn. "The Dragon Fighter Academy has taught me a lot, and even though some of it hurts, I feel more confident to perform my job to the best of my ability."

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