Health & Safety

August 23, 2012

Bolstering Security Through the Fleet Assistance Program

Lance Cpl. Uriel Avendano
Desert Warrior Staff
Photo by Cpl. Sean Dennison
Cpl. Eladio Arguelles, formerly a Marine Attack Squadron 513 airframes mechanic and a native of El Paso, Texas, practices defense techniques after being sprayed with OC chemicals during his indoctrination as a temporary military police augment at MCAS Yuma, Aug. 17. The OC trials acted as the culminating event for augmented Marines like Arguelles.

Lance Cpl. Daniel Forslin, a Marine Attack Squadron 214 powerline mechanic didn’t think his face would feel like it had been set on fire when he first enlisted in the Marine Corps.

“I thought the gas chamber was going to be the worst thing to happen to me,” said Forslin, a native of Fremont, Wis.

But on Aug. 17, in front of the Provost Marshal’s Office building at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Forsdin summed up his experience in the final OC-spray evolution of temporary PMO training as, “Merciless.”

Every six months, through the Fleet Assistance Program, PMO cycles a class of Marines to fulfill several security billets. Due to the heavy schedule certain units carry, the FAP ensures Marines are selected, trained, and in place for any given mission at any given time.

“Our mission requires a certain amount of people,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Poelns, PMO training chief and a native of Laramie, Wyo. “It’s an agreement that every base I’ve ever worked at has with the adjacent units that provides augments to us so that we can perform our mission, which is security.”

Marines are selected, or volunteer, for the training and receive a ten day crash course in one PMO curriculum. They are first given a general orientation to law enforcement. From there, the Marines are taught about the use of force, how to deal with suspects and civilians, evaluating situations, communication skills and defensive tactics.

“We take basic knowledge classes and learn about escalation of force, dealing with crowds, riot control and pistol qualifications” said Lance Cpl. Jonathan Beltrancastro, a Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 electrician who FAP’d over to PMO, and a native of Sanger, CA. “Even though it’s a short period of time, they taught us all the stuff that we need to know and we passed.”

Being OC-sprayed is just one of the challenges the Marines had to pass to qualify as temporary security. Marines must meet both Marine Corps and law enforcement standards when it comes to pistol qualification.

Their active shooter exercise culminated in an event comprised of applying the skills they were taught through practical application held in a predetermined facility. Marines are tasked with finding, identifying and neutralizing a real-life threat during the simulation.

With coaching, they would run through drills that called for the Marines to name their targets (1, 2 or 3) and remember the number of bullets they discharged with each. Another pistol qualifying exercise, held at night, ran the Marines through various exercises that tested their dexterity and reflexes in a dark environment.

“The flashlights aren’t constantly on. So, it was flash, shoot shoot. Flash, shoot shoot.” said Beltrancastro. “We had to be able to train ourselves to have the targets in front of us, ignore flashing lights and stay focused on the target.”

PMO’s mission demands long hours. The FAP provides relief in the form of Marines ready and able to fill slots that would otherwise be stretched thin. The training ensures the augmented Marines are prepared and capable of handling situations that may come their way.

“There are a lot of valuable skills to be taken away from here,” said Cpl. Eladio Arguelles, formerly a Marine Attack Squadron 513 airframes mechanic and native of El Paso, Texas. “They can help you against an attacker, and it teaches you to be aware of your surroundings.”

Though PMO Marines go through similar training, the challenge of training Marines from other occupational fields is not lost on Poelns.

“PMO is a mindset,” said Poelns. “The Marine Corps has given you this mission, you’re a Marine, so follow through with it until you accomplish your mission.”

Mindset was one focal point Beltrancastro held onto while pushing through defensive tactics and procedures during the final OC spraying event.

“You have a newfound respect for law enforcement,” said Beltrancastro, after going through the OC spray exercise sporting a Superman ‘S’ on his skivvy shirt. “But it was definitely worth it.”

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