In an attempt to reduce civilian casualties at roadside checkpoints, Fort Benning spent the last two weeks conducting an assessment using non-lethal weapons to save lives.
“Anything that can keep a distance between us and the enemy is beneficial,” said Sgt. Cory Tanner of 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga. “Anything to keep our guys safe down range is priority one for us.”
Civilian casualties at checkpoints ranks second behind airstrikes in causing the deaths of civilians, said Ken Sheehy, of the Department of Defense Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate at Quantico, Va. A squad of soldiers gathered at the McKenna Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain facility Friday to face unknown drivers at a checkpoint similar to one in Shinkay, Afghanistan.
“We want to show in a quantitative manner with data and analysis that non-lethal weapons help you accomplish your mission,” said Brian Long, a trainer with the Department of Defense Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate. “They are not a burden to you.”
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Instead of firing on drivers and passengers in a vehicle, soldiers used a series of non-lethal weapons to stop a vehicle at a checkpoiint. They include a high-powered green laser to temporarily disable a driver’s vision, a high pitched speaker system to warn drivers in their native language, 40mm concussion round and a similar 12-gauge round to get the driver’s attention. The last device used is a vehicle disabling mat filled with spikes to puncture tires.
All the non-lethal weapons are available to all branches of service, including the Navy, Air Force and Marines.
Tanner said non-lethal weapons give soldiers more tools to do their job.
“The more we have in our tool kit the more we can reduce casualties,” he said. “Keep the soldier safe and my brother safe. That is what we want. We want our guys to come back.”
Spc. Binh Tran, who is also assigned at Fort Stewart, said the same tools are available at his company but they are just gathering cobwebs. “I feel like I can go back and open up a couple of boxes,” he said. “We can implement this in our training back home. Two week here I learned a lot.”