Aug. 1, 2019 (Col. Wendell Leimbach) — I used to believe that a question had an obvious answer. The United States military is the world’s most feared and lethal fighting force, with the Marines being among the most aggressive warriors within that force. Beyond crowd control during peacekeeping in lieu of (ILO) operations, considering the tactical employability of non-lethal weapons (NLW) as a young combat arms officer seemed irrelevant and impractical. As a tank officer, and more recently as an acquisitions program manager, I spent the majority of my career enhancing the lethality of the Corps.
Given the importance of strengthening warfighting capabilities with limited time and resources, the significance of NLW, even for kinetic and potentially lethal operations, was not immediately intuitive. However, once I moved beyond conceptualizing NLW as essential equipment for only Marine Security Guards and military police, it did not take long for me to understand their utility, relevance, and importance across the spectrum of conflict. Twenty-five years ago, when I learned to employ NLW preparing for an ILO mission to guard Haitian refugees in Cuba, common scenarios involved responses to large groups of hostile civilians.