Being “OC sprayed” is an absolutely terrible experience.
OC, or Oleoresin Capsicum — better known as pepper spray — is used to train military and law enforcement personnel as a necessary exercise, so they know what it feels like and can continue to function if they are sprayed.
“It may be the greatest pain I’ve ever felt in my life,” former Marine Ben Feibleman told WATM. Echoing this sentiment, WATM’s own Mike Dowling described it as “the worst day of his life.”
Despite the suffocating and searing sensation of the face, it’s a non-lethal form of policing, riot control, and personal self-defense. In most cases, the worst that will happen is irritation of the skin, temporary blindness, pain and the psychological effect of fear, anxiety and panic. As part of their training, troops are subject to voluntary OC spraying and asked to perform crowd restraint exercises.
The active ingredient in most OC sprays is a high concentration of pepper and alcohol, which is why “pepper spray” is commonly used to identify the spray. The only way to mitigate the spray’s effect is a direct stream of water to the eyes to flush the chemical out. In most cases – depending on the chemical concentration – the average effect lasts 30 minutes, according to SABRE, a brand of OC spray.
Here’s what a typical OC spray qualification is like:
The pepper spray is voluntary. He may look calm…
… but here’s what he’s really feeling.
Next, nearly blind from the pepper spray, the trainee must take down a threat by submission.
Then, the trainee must simulate fending off a potential threat.
Once training is complete, it’s off to rinsing your face with water.
No matter how much pepper spray hurts, don’t be this guy:
In 1991, 18-year-old June Copeland was brushing her teeth when her twin brother, Jerry Copeland, asked her to join the Army with him. Her answer? A resounding “No.” After much cajoling, the two agreed to enlist together for maybe three to four years.
While Jerry served his commitment and entered civilian life, June ended up making a robust career of it. She would go on to graduate from West Point and become an adjutant general. Nearly three decades later, Col. June Copeland has made both education and the Army central to her family’s legacy.
Currently, June is stationed at the Pentagon. When you ask her about her greatest accomplishment, she points to her three daughters — June Alyxandra, Jasmyn, and Jeilyn — all of whom have graduated from or are currently attending West Point.
June’s drive for excellence and her grounding comes from family, particularly her mother.
“When my ancestors were freed, we decided to stay on the plantation in Georgia. So, my grandmother was born there,” she said. Her mother grew up during Jim Crow and was one of 12 students who integrated schools in Savannah, Georgia. “She always talked about the benefits of education . . . Her biggest emphasis was always on getting a good education, making it count, and working towards a goal.”
While at basic training, June was crestfallen to learn that her first assignment would be in Germany. She called her mother in tears worried that she wasn’t ready for such a big step.
“When you are in basic training you see about five colors: brown, brick, dirt, tan, and green. All of a sudden, I saw all of these colors, pink, yellow, red, purple, just floating around and I was mesmerized,” she said.
Suddenly, June realized that it was her mom dressed in the most beautiful floral shirt. While her brigade was performing drill and ceremony, her mother and 10 family members were there to cheer her on and encourage her. Her mother served as a literal bright spot in the drab world of basic training.
Today, June serves as a mentor, cheerleader, and bright spot for her own daughters.
“Everyone loves our story,” June said. “The thing I love the most about the girls is that they are good people. They are amazing human beings. They are good people to their hearts,” she said.
For June, the values of West Point just make sense for her family. “The values: don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Be an honorable person. Character matters. These are all things that my parents instilled in me and I made sure I instilled them in my children. It works,” she said.
When her oldest daughter, June Alyxandra, was a sophomore in high school, the two mapped out a plan for her educational and career goals.
“It wasn’t until we sat down and talked about the future that I really thought about West Point,” June Alyxandra said.
A 2020 West Point graduate, 2nd Lt. June Alyxandra Copeland is now 23 and stationed at Fort Drum, New York, where she serves in the 10th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion of the Combat Aviation Brigade.
Twenty-year-old twins Jasmyn and Jeilyn Haynes were eager to follow in their big sister’s footsteps. Both are currently juniors at West Point. Jasmyn, an IT major, is on the dance team and Jeilyn, a history major, is on the debate team.
“I would have loved to make the debate team, and I think she would have loved to be on the dance team . . . but we had to part ways,” Jasmyn said with a smile. “There was a lot of teasing.”
All three girls say that the institution provides a structure for success.
“They teach you how to fail so they can figure out what you’re good at so they can help you discover where you need to work to succeed,” June Alyxandra said.
Jeilyn says that West Point presented many challenges physically, academically, and in terms of time management. “However, the one thing where we never struggled with was the character and moral values because our mother raised us. She taught us character. She taught us courage.”
“Resilience!” Jasmyn interjected. “She taught us resilience! So when we did fail, we would always get back up.”
“Education is very important to our family,” Jeilyn added. “So are the values of duty, honor, country. What’s astounding about my mom is that she took those values and she raised us with them. So going into West Point, when people found out our mother was a lieutenant colonel in the Army, people looked at us like these West Point Simbas.”
“Yea, like we grew up low crawling to breakfast,” June Alyxandra interrupted with a laugh.
June says that while there have been many lessons for the girls, education remains at the heart of her family’s priorities.
“One thing my mother would always say is that the key to changing your life, the key to elevating yourself and your family, and [taking] your legacy to the next level is always making sure you have an education. Once you get that piece of paper, it can never be taken away from you,” June concluded.
The family of a fallen soldier says his legacy will transcend his life.
Army Spc. John “Alex” Pelham was killed in Afghanistan in 2014. He was 22 years old. Despite the overwhelming grief and devastation that accompanied his loss, his family is committed to inspiring others through an ongoing initiative to live — and give — like John.
His father, Wendall, had a conversation with his son two days before his death, sharing that after he hung up the phone, he knew he’d never see John again.
“There are warriors that God put on the earth to take care of us,” he said. “At his funeral I said, ‘John would be bigger in death than he ever was in life,’ and he is … as we come up on seven years since his death, that statement was prophetic.”
Described as tall and strikingly handsome, John was a magnet to the people around him. That pull would only intensify after he died.
“He was the epitome of the Green Beret moto ‘De oppresso liber,’ of freeing the oppressed. John did that all the way through school, taking care of the bullies,” Wendall said with a smile.
John’s grandfather, a 30-year veteran of the Army, was his idol. Wendall said his son sought to emulate him. Though John was successfully playing college baseball after high school, he left it all behind for a deep conviction to serve.
In July 2011, John enlisted as an intelligence analyst, leading him to become a coveted soldier with Special Forces.
John was assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His skills as an analyst saved hundreds of lives, long after he was gone, his father said. After an ambush attack, he was killed alongside another soldier. On Feb. 12, 2014, at 4:34 p.m. in Oregon, Wendall’s wife called him at work to say two soldiers in dress blues were on their porch. He knew immediately John was gone.
But to his family, John’s still here. He’s in every facet of what they do and how they approach life. His legacy also lives on at Fort Bragg, with his name inscribed at multiple locations.
“I get to live a part of my son’s life through mine because of his example of what a true servant looks like,” Wendall said through tears. “My son, through his service, has taught me how to be beyonda great leader. My level of empathy and care and love for fellow man is 180 degrees different now.”
After months of healing following John’s death, his family organized a racquetball tournament in his honor. The sport was one of John’s favorite pastimes and something that brought him joy. Wendall realized they needed somewhere to put the money raised, so they formed a nonprofit organization. The name? Live Like John. The mission is to support military charities, veterans, and other Gold Star families.
This doesn’t mean follow John’s more than obvious path, which was headed toward completing the “Q” course and becoming a Green Beret. But rather efforts to service others, community, and humanity.
“I learned a long time ago that to be a great leader — you have to be a servant,” Wendall said.
He encourages everyone to engage in a mission of service, but above all else, teach children to do the same. John is described as a loving man, son, brother, nephew, and friend. He was also an American soldier whose life was lived with such honor and dedication that it has had ripple effects far beyond his death.
The foundation has brought immense healing, but there are still hard days for the Pelham family: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Veterans Day, the holiday season and then, the day John died.
“Your body already knows. It’s already telling me, the day, it’s coming,” Wendall said.
He adds that for those seeking to say “thank you for your service” to service members and veterans, it should be done with meaning.
“Those words said repetitiously lose their luster after a while. You can sip a Starbucks on a cold winter day or get a suntan on a beach in Maui while traveling the world with no restriction, because you are a citizen of the United States of America,” he said. “What’s that worth? Do you understand what it is worth to the families who have given their loved ones’ lives for this freedom?”
Spc. John Pelham will be among a group of service members honored this year through The Unquiet Professional’s 2021 Virtual Memorial Mile. Visit www.theunquietprofessional.org/tupmile for updates on how you can support efforts to honor the fallen.
The Marine Corps is investing in a next-generation water purification system that will allow individual Marines to get safe, drinkable water straight from the source.
The Individual Water Purification System Block II is an upgrade to the current version issued to all Marines.
“With IWPS II, Marines are able to quickly purify fresh bodies of water on the go,” said Jonathan York, team lead for Expeditionary Energy Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “This allows them to travel farther to do their mission.”
Finding ways to make small units more sustainable to allow for distributed operations across the battlefield is a key enabler to the Marine Corps becoming more expeditionary. Developing water purification systems that can be easily carried while still purifying substantial amounts of water is part of that focus.
The current system filters bacteria and cysts, but Marines still have to use purification tablets to remove viruses. That takes time – as long as 15 minutes for the chemical process to work before it is safe to drink. IWPS II uses an internal cartridge that effectively filters micro pathogens, providing better protection from bacterial and viral waterborne diseases.
“IWPS II will remove all three pathogens, filtering all the way down to the smallest virus that can be found,” said Capt. Jeremy Walker, project officer for Water Systems. “We have removed the chemical treatment process, so they can drink directly from the fresh water source.”
IWPS II can also connect to Marines’ man-packable hydration packs.
“The system is quite simple and easy to use,” said Walker. “The small filter connects directly with the existing Marine Corps Hydration System/Pouch or can be used like a straw directly from the source water. The system has a means to backflush and clean the filter membrane, extending the service life. The system does not require power, just suction.”
The current system was fielded in 2004 and used by small raids and reconnaissance units in remote environments where routine distilled water was unavailable. Since then, the system has been used in combat and disaster relief missions.
Every branch of the service has that place their soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines just dream of getting orders for.
That place could be anywhere that might appeal to an individual… maybe they love the cultural experience of being in Europe, or they enjoy the sun in Hawaii, or maybe they’re just away from their hometown.
These aren’t those places.
Army: Fort Polk, Louisiana
Ever hear of Leesville, Lousiana? No? Good for you. Living in a swamp is not something anyone grew up dreaming about. The nearest towns are at least an hour away, and the nearest fun is in New Orleans, a long drive away.
Sure, the PX is supposedly great thanks to a facelift, but it had better be: There’s nothing else to do. Fort Polk will supposedly ruin your car, ruin your marriage, and make you hate biting lizards.
Navy: NAS Lemoore
Hey, how does being cast out into one of the most polluted cities on the planet sound? Because NAS Lemoore is a great place to get asthma.
Most people who haven’t been to Clovis will argue that I spelled “Minot” wrong. I argue that any place referred to as “Afcannonstan” is probably far worse.
Both places are pretty remote, and while Minot has a seemingly endless winter, the people of Clovis are annually subjected to a wave of giant insects. Also, the stink of cow dung doesn’t travel as far in the cold. Cannon’s airmen would tell you to be happy it’s so cold.
Marine Corps: Twentynine Palms, California
All of the duty stations on this list have one thing in common: They’re pretty far from real American life. Twentynine Palms is no different. These guys are smack-dab in the middle of the Mojave Desert.
So, Marines can prep for sandstorms in the Middle East with sandstorms right here at home. And remember, when airmen complain about the smell of cow manure in the desert, Marines can complain about the lake of sewage.
Coast Guard: You tell me.
The Coast Guard talks about its districts like it’s in the world of The Hunger Games. Everyone seems to love district 13. In fact, as much flak as the Coast Guard gets for being the awkward child of the military, the Coast Guard doesn’t seem to have a “worst” station among them.
I’m told the station at Venice, Louisiana can be pretty bad and that the CG will let you choose your follow on orders for doing a tour there. But no one ever seems to talk Twentynine Palms-level smack about any station.
As a service member, there’s no telling what the week will bring. Thankfully, the ranks are filled with expert photographers who have a keen eye for capturing what military life is like, both in training and at war.
These are the best photos of the week:
A U.S. Air Force pararescueman, assigned to the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, performs tactical critical casualty care on several simulated casualties aboard a U.S. Army CH-47F Chinook during a personnel recovery exercise at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Feb. 27, 2018. While deployed to Afghanistan, the pararescuemen primarily fly their missions on the Chinooks, making the 83rd ERQS the first joint personnel recovery team in Air Forces Central Command.
494th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Airmen work on an F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 494th Fighter Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, Feb. 28. Airmen are trained to operate under a variety of different conditions to maintain mission readiness.
Sergeant John Chambliss, crew chief, Alpha Company, “Task Force Voodoo”, 1st Assault Helicopter Battalion, 244th Aviation Regiment, Louisiana National Guard preforms pre-flight inspection of a UH-60M Black Hawk, Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Feb. 27, 2018. The flight featured an all-African-American crew in recognition of Black History Month and the growth that has occurred within the aviation community over time.
U.S. Soldiers assigned to 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, detonate a flex linear charge at a range near the Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, Feb. 28, 2018. These Soldiers are part of the unique, multinational battle group comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian soldiers who serve with the Polish 15th Mechanized Brigade as a deterrence force in northeast Poland in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence.
The official party salute the colors during the change of command ceremony for Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi. During the ceremony Capt. Forrest O. Young, from Washington D.C. relieved Capt. Michael S. Wosje, from Sioux Falls, S.D., as Commander, CVW-5.
Seaman Zimir Wilkins, assigned to the Harpers Ferry-class dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), stands starboard-forward lookout as the ship transits the Strait of Gibraltar Feb. 28, 2018. Oak Hill, home-ported in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
A Marine low crawls through a cement tunnel during the combat endurance course aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Feb. 28.
U.S. Marines assigned to the Maritime Raid Force (MRF), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conduct fast rope training from an MH-60S Sea Hawk, attached to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 28, aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), Feb. 26, 2018. Iwo Jima and the 26th MEU are conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations.
Members of a an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, from Coast Guard Air Station/Sector Field Officer Port Angeles, Wash., and emergency medical service personnel move an injured hiker to a stretcher on the air field at the air station, Feb. 24, 2018. EMS personnel then transported the 68-year-old male, who had reportedly suffered shoulder and back injures after a fall, to the Olympic Medical Center.
The United States Navy’s aircraft carriers are huge ships. This isn’t just for show; they need to be large to operate four squadrons of multi-role fighters plus other assorted planes, like EA-18G Growlers, E-2 Hawkeyes, and helicopters. But all of that space is useful for transporting other things, too. After all, we’re talking over four acres of sovereign United States territory.
For instance, when the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) was switching homeports from Bremerton to San Diego (before being deployed to Japan as the forward-based carrier), she did a solid for all of the sailors who man her — she gave their rides a ride.
Many sailors have vehicles. But when you’re sailing a ship, your options for vehicle transportation are limited. Sure, you can have your vehicle shipped — but you’ll have to pay a fee. Yeah, you can ask a buddy to make the road trip out to your new home port, but what if something happens along the way? Or, you could always sell your car and buy a new one, but that’s a hassle and a half — plus, you don’t want to shed that sweet Mustang, right?
Since it was just a short trip up the coast and since they didn’t need to operate the air wing, the sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan were allowed to park on the ship. Without the air wing, there’s a lot of room for helping the crew get their vehicles to the new home port.
For one brief coastal cruise, the Ronald Reagan became a $5 billion, nuclear-powered car carrier. The sailors saved money, the Navy didn’t have to pay contractors to move the vehicles, and we got some cool photos out of the deal. That’s a win-win-win all around.
In the summer of 2012, young Benjamin was born to Pvt. Ashley Shelton in the middle of FOB Shindand, Afghanistan. The story was first broken by Stars and Stripes in October 2012, but details surrounding the birth weren’t released until WTHR 13 Investigates got into contact with the mother recently.
Pvt. Ashley Shelton was assigned to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Ansbach, Germany and deployed in the spring. Normally, Army regulations bar pregnant soldiers and those who recently gave birth from deploying. However, due to her pregnancy tests being disregarded as “false-positives,” she was still sent with her unit.
She continued her regular Army duties, even those that would normally be unfit for an expected mother such as physical training and combat duties. There were no normal signs of pregnancy, such as weight gain or a baby bump. Morning sickness or and cramping was mostly written off with a dismissive, “Well, it’s Afghanistan…”
Then, on Aug. 12, she went to the aid station for cramps. The doctor told her to drink fluids and prescribed her bed rest. On her way back, her water broke and she blacked out. Her child, Benjamin, was born. The U.S. Army has yet to clarify what exactly went wrong, but they conducted internal investigations. Army representatives told WTHR 13 Investigates that they can not talk about personal health issues due to federal health privacy laws.
Years later, Benjamin exhibits some congenital birth defects, which may be a result of mishandled pregnancy. His medical records show a small knot in his lower left leg, described as a club foot, and a lower speech level than normal. Ashley Shelton has been struggling the last years with getting attention for her son’s and her own medical conditions.
That hasn’t stopped the fun-loving kid from running around the playground, though. There’s no telling if the kid ends up being a superhero, but that’s a backstory that tops Marvel and DC characters. Even if the kid doesn’t become a superhero, if he serves in the Army like his mother, you can bet that he’ll have a one-up card on everyone. “Where were you born? Some POG civilian hospital not in the middle of combat? That’s cute.”
Most troops take it easy and try to finish up the last things on their checklists before leaving. For most of us, the final weeks of our military service meant it was time to clean gear, say farewells, and hand off duties to the next guy. Many other short-timers, however, mentally ETS well before crossing the finish line.
The last couple of weeks in the military are often treated as a gentle glide back into the civilian world, but some guys take it to the next level and nosedive into laziness while still wearing their uniform. If you’re looking to make the most of your lazy days, use these tips:
Just say you’re at CIF or you’re cleaning your gear for CIF. It’s enough of a pain in the ass that everyone will just accept it.
(Photo by Spc. Devona Felgar)
Do some next-level skating
This is one of the few moments in your military career where it’s perfectly acceptable to focus on you and what you’ll be doing for yourself after you’re out. In other words, treat yo’ self.
Sham, skate, and be lazy. After a long career in the service, you’ve earned it.
Then again, reminding staff duty that you’ve been gone is fun, too…
(Photo by Chief warrant Officer Daniel McGowan)
Remind everyone of your ETS date
There’s a practical aspect to this. Nobody wants to get calls from staff duty asking why you’re not there when you’ve been out for months.
So, be loud about it. Everyone in the unit should know that you’re almost at the finish line — and that they shouldn’t expect sh*t from you.
No more barracks haircuts for you!
(U.S. Army photo)
Start growing that civilian hairstyle
You can’t start growing that sick, veteran-AF beard just yet, but you can start growing your hair out.
It still needs to be within regulations, but nobody will bother getting in your face if it’s just barely acceptable.
Let some other unfortunate soul handle cleaning connexes.
Hot potato every one of your responsibilities
Before you’re gone, you’ll need to successfully hand off your responsibilities to your replacement. What better way to get them used to your workflow than by giving them all of your work?
Divert all work the expected of you from here on out. If you think about it, you’re really just helping the replacement.
Dental is unsurprisingly expensive in the real world. Get as much done as you can while you’re in.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Rashard Coaxum)
Spend all of your time at health and dental
One of the biggest regrets among veterans is not logging every single service-related pain and injury. If you get a nagging ailment it verified while you’re still in, it’s much easier to get taken care of later.
We know — this is a bit of legitimate advice in an otherwise humorous article. If you’re determined to simply waste time, swing by the aid station all day, every day.
The only hard part of the classes is staying awake.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Kocin)
Actually go to out-briefing classes
The classes can be helpful and you will need to go for accountability reasons, but it’s entirely on you how much you care.
Put in enough effort and maybe take a few extra classes, just to be safe. Your leadership won’t want to stop you from trying to improve your odds in the civilian world.
Scenario #1: A young service member walks into their newly assigned barracks room and notices how nasty it is. And on top of that, they have to share the small space with two or three other people that may or may not be very clean. The struggle is real.
Scenario #2: A service member may just have received orders to go on a 13-month deployment wants to make some cash while they’re gone.
Both of these very real circumstances of military life can be strong motivators for troops to tie the knot — and not for love.
Often called a “contract marriage,” these pairings are purely for monetary gain or medical benefits. No one is suggesting you do this versus saving your money or getting a second job if your command allows, but if you do it, keep these very important things in mind.
If you do get a divorce, the military typically won’t stop the extra pay right away. So don’t go spending all that extra cash too fast. The government will take back every cent from your paycheck until they recoup what’s theirs.
The answer is, yes. (images via Giphy)You’re welcome America!
Service members from all ranks experience some crazy things during their time in uniform. From taking on the bad guys in a firefight to surviving some crazy accidents that most civilians couldn’t stomach — it’s all just part of the job.
We embrace the suck and, in the process, develop a unique sense of humor that’s not for everyone. For us, laughing at the crazy events of our daily life in service makes us stronger and helps us to push through the next dangerous mission with smiles on our faces.
When we tell people the true stories of what we’ve seen and done, the average man or woman lets out an exasperated “wow.”