Airman 1st Class Michael Gregg reacts to being on the receiving end of an electroshock from a Taser on Jan. 13. Gregg is a member of the 127th Security Forces Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., which has begun using Tasers as part of its patrol gear. (Staff Sgt. Rachel Barton / Air Force)
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Air Force security forces training involves time, energy and a high pain threshold. Security forces at RAF Lakenheath, England, practice firing Tasers during training. (Screenshot from Air Force video)
Security forces airmen across the Air Force are being trained to use Tasers, a tool that is increasingly replacing batons as nonlethal weapons during base patrols.
The latest base to train on the Tasers is Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., where security forces airmen began classroom sessions that include using the weapon on volunteers.
"There's no doubt it works," said Senior Airman William Lizenby, who was on the receiving end of a five-second jolt of electricity from the Taser. "I couldn't move. It felt like it went on for far longer than the five seconds."
Staff Sgt. Steve Marcotte, unit training manager with the 127th Security Forces Squadron at Selfridge, said the X26 Taser airmen are using is more effective than batons and other nonlethal weapons.
"It's still not as commonly found as other less lethal weapons like the expandable baton or OC spray, but more units are incorporating it into their inventory," he said.
The Tasers were purchased to better equip airmen with new technology to protect personnel, resources and materials, according to Air Force officials. These nonlethal weapons are funded at the squadron level to enhance their nonlethal capabilities.
"All security forces airmen are required to carry at least one Air Force approved means of nonlethal capability when carrying a lethal weapon," said Air Force spokesman Capt. Nicholas Plante.
The Taser is designed to discharge a five-second charge of electricity when the trigger is pulled and immediately released. It can continue to discharge electricity beyond five seconds, if the officer were to continue to hold the trigger, Marcotte said.
The Taser incapacitates its victims by interrupting the brain's ability to control the muscles in the body.
"This creates an immediate and unavoidable incapacitation that is not based on pain and cannot be overcome," said Master Sgt. Dan French, operations noncommissioned for the security forces squadron at Selfridge, in a release.
During the training at Selfridge, each of the volunteers was given the five-second jolt. Each volunteer fell to the ground after receiving it. Several were instructed to kick their legs or perform other actions while being shocked, but were unable to do so, demonstrating the effectiveness of the weapon. Once the current stopped, those who had been shocked were able to get up under their own power, but were shaken for a few moments.
Marcotte explained that with the Taser, an airman has more distance to subdue a suspect, avoiding a possible struggle.
"The Taser is far more effective for obtaining compliance from a hostile subject than other less-lethal weapons," Marcotte said.
"The availability of such an effective and reliable less-lethal weapon gives patrolmen an option between fists and firearms. Having a less-lethal alternative provides officers with a tool to defend themselves when lethal force would not be reasonable or could be otherwise avoided," he said.
The Air Force has been using Tasers for over 10 years: the M26 Taser started the process first given to Air Mobility Command back in 2003, which then went Air Force wide in 2006. The latest X26 model was approved for Air Force use in 2008.
"Since the introduction of both types of Tasers, the Air Force has procured a total of just under 5,000 units. Over 50 percent of Air Force bases have procured Tasers," Plante said, which includes some overseas bases in PACAF and USAFE.
The Navy, Marine Corps and Army also use the X26 Taser, according to Marcotte. The Marine Corps operates a Less Lethal Weapons Instructor Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., that also provides class seats to airmen.
The X26 Taser is produced by TASER International Inc. It is currently being used by civilian police departments all across the country.
"The security forces units were among the first of the four military services to embrace Taser capabilities," said George Fenton, vice president of federal and military programs at TASER International.
"The security forces are champions of this," he said.