The Army recently fielded the first Brigade Nonlethal Capability Set to members of the 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Ga.
The sets are designed to give nonlethal capabilities to commanders and Soldiers to support an escalation of force to determine intent before the situation necessitates lethal force, explained Maj. Thomas Aarsen, NLCS project officer.
“Nonlethal options allow Soldiers to react with an appropriate level of force based on the situation, prior to resorting to lethal force,” Aarsen said.
The sets were developed by engineers in the office of the Program Manager for Close Combat Systems at Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.
Soldiers from the brigade participated in a week-long training on the equipment, from July 22-July 25.
The training was conducted by representatives from the United States Army Military Police School, Nonlethal Scalable Effects Center from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. They traveled to Fort Stewart to instruct the Soldiers on the technical performance of the items so they can incorporate the technology into their tactics, techniques and procedures, said Jeff Teats, NLCS technical trainer.
The sets contain a mix of counter-personnel and counter-materiel systems, protective equipment and enhancement devices, said Aarsen.
They are composed of four types of modules for mission-specific tasks, and one taser sub-module for distribution by the brigade commander based on mission requirements, Aarsen said.
Modules include the checkpoint module, crowd control and detainee ops module, convoy module, and dismounted module that includes various non-lethal items troops can use during dismounted patrols.
Checkpoint modules provide non-lethal equipment to establish and operate hasty and deliberate checkpoints.
They include counter-material devices including tire spikes, known as caltrops, Vehicle Lightweight Arresting Devices and the Picatinny-designed portable vehicle-arresting barriers, which are capture nets that can stop errant vehicles. All are used to deny vehicles access to critical facilities at roadblocks and checkpoints.
Staff Sgt. Jesse Lujan with the 3rd Battalion, 6th Armor Regiment said that during a previous tour in Iraq, his unit used caltrops as another line of defense to stop vehicles from entering the base.
“It channels the air out the tires to slow (the car) down, so they wouldn’t have enough speed to make it through the gate,” he explained.
The checkpoint modules are also equipped with mirrors, lights and traffic cones to assist Soldiers inspecting vehicles.
Crowd control and detainee operations modules provide nonlethal protective equipment to platoon-size elements when conducting crowd control or detainee missions. The module includes items such as face shields, shin guards, batons and restraint devices.
The convoy modules provide nonlethal equipment to support and equip vehicles. The sets are equipped with high-intensity lights and voice amplification devices that provide focused sound out to 500 feet.
The troops said the voice amplification devices could be used by security forces for crowd control.
“The speakers are good and clear and can definitely be used in Iraq,” said Sgt. Maria Martinez, Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Support Company.
The dismounted modules provide nonlethal equipment to support platoon-sized elements in an urban environment or when conducting dismounted operations. Some elements of this module include high-intensity lights and Phraselators that translate simple English commands into Arabic when translators are not available.
Lujan, who has completed two tours in Iraq, said the Phraselator would be a welcome product.
“There were times when you would try to go through a house and they don’t understand you and you don’t understand their response,” Lujan said.
As a compliment to the NLCS, additional training was conducted on non-lethal munitions for the 12-gauge shotgun and the 40mm grenade launcher. Although, the munitions are not issued with the set, they were trained as part of the non-lethal capabilities available within the Army. These items permit commanders to apply military force in crowd and riot control conditions while reducing the risks to noncombatants and Soldiers.
The sets are scheduled to be fielded to Brigade Combat Teams, Military Police Brigades and Maneuver Enhancement Brigades, said NLCS lead engineer Linda Chico.
While this was the first fielding to a brigade, smaller nonlethal sets were fielded to various battalions in 2000 and platoons in 2005, she said.
The initial battalion and platoon kits were shipped to selected units in Iraq and Afghanistan in response to an urgent requirement request from field commanders.
Chico said the Brigade NLCS includes items not found in the previous sets, such as tasers, Phraselators, Vehicle Lightweight Arresting Devices and Ex-Spray, which allows Soldiers to detect explosive residue.
The NLCS kits are packaged in large, weatherproof containers that are transported easily to the mission site and include instructions for the products.
They can be used in a wide variety of situations requiring enhanced security.