What do you see in the picture? Zombie? Drug addict? Insomniac? Or police recruit after a blast of pepper spray in the face and eyes?
After 12 weeks of anticipation, my class finally made it through OC spray day. All of the horror stories I heard from previous classes did not do this event justice.
After accepting a burst of spray directly in the face, we were immediately pounced upon by a class instructor delivering punches to the head with a padded glove. I could barely see out of my burning eyes but managed to block these blows. Next, the instructor attempted to take my gun from my holster. I had to hold down on the gun to prevent it from coming loose while punching with my other hand. As my face began to burn and my eyes shut completely, I was commanded to deliver 5 strikes to the face of a rubber human dummy. I then had to turn and face an attacker and identify what type of weapon he was wielding. At this point, my skin was flaming, my eyes were filled with shards of glass and I could barely breath. I had to pry my open with my left hand while aiming my gun at the attacker. Panic set in and I started losing control. I came close to quitting but knew this would require me to re-take the test so I fought through it. Finally, I commanded the attacker to drop the weapon and get down on the ground. I then approached, applied handcuffs, and radioed for assistance.
This ended the scenario but not the pain. I was lead blinded to the recovery area and planted my face in the sprinkler for about five minutes. The cool water helped numb the burning on my face but I still could not open my eyes. The spray is re-activated by water so as soon as I removed my face from the water, the degree of burning increased. The only remedy was to stand facing the breeze and just wait for the agony to subside. After 30 minutes of intense burning, I could finally crack my eyes open for a few seconds at a time. My face started to feel a bit better as the spray dried up.
Many of my classmates decided to take a shower which exacerbated the burning. One unlucky guy stood in the shower as the pepper residue washed down his body to a more sensitive area. The poor guy was screaming in agony and suffered much more than the rest of us.
I arrived home and dreaded the impending shower. The spray had dried on my skin and was mildly irritating but had to be washed off. I spent 45 minutes in the shower washing and re-washing my face and arms which caused me to relive the roasting all over again. After a dozen or so scrubbings, latherings, and rinses, the burning started to lighten up. I was lucky that only my face and arms were affected (my carpool partners had it on their chest and legs, too). It's now 6 hours after the spray and my eyes are still swollen and irritated.
I can say that today's exercise was the most physically painful thing I've ever experienced. There's no way to describe just how bad it was but imagine holding your face directly over a charcoal grill or too close to a campfire. Except that when the radiating heat becomes unbearable, you're unable to move for over 30 minutes.
Even though I had a moment of panic, there were other rectruits that went berzerk. Everyone passed the test but some guys were going crazy in the recovery area. There was uncotrollable swearing, screaming, whails of agony. As irony would have it, the smallest and most seemingly timid woman in the class was hardly affected at all by the spray. She said it felt like a mild sunburn and was fully recovered in a few minutes.
After tomorrow, we'll be three quarters of the way done with all of the fun stuff to come (more shooting, pursuit driving, and field scenarios).