by Frank Pauc
This first appeared in Frank’s blog on June 18, 2020, as “Pepper Balls.” It is republished here with the author’s permission.
Hans was slouching forward in a chair. He was sitting next to the front door of his house, smoking a Pall Mall, and sipping on a Lime-a-Rita. Hans looked tired, dead tired. He had just come back home from work. He had been on the job pumping concrete for well over twelve hours. He was still covered with dirt and cement. He didn’t have the energy or the inclination to clean himself up. He just wanted to sit for a while, and talk.
I was sitting with Hans. We were having a conversation about paintball guns. I had only used them one time in my life. That was when I was on a class trip with my youngest son, Stefan, in New Orleans, back in 2008.
Hans asked, “Did you all use the regular paint guns, or did you use the guns that fire those rubber balls?”
I asked him back, “Do you mean the balls that are hard like squash balls, and leave a nasty red bruise?”
Hans replied wearily, “Yeah, those.”
“We used those guns. That shit hurt.”
Hans chuckled, “I bet those balls didn’t hurt like a pepper ball.”
Hans told me, “Yeah, the balls that contain pepper spray. We fired those during training at Fort Hood. We also fired rubber bullets.”
Hans went on, “It kind of pissed me off when this guy I know wrote on Facebook about how the National Guard was supposed to fire rubber bullets at the ground in front of the crowds during these protests. He also said that the soldiers were firing at the faces of the demonstrators. That’s just ridiculous.”
Hans took a deep drag on his cigarette. Then he said slowly, “Well, first of all, you can’t get any accuracy when you fire a rubber bullet. They go every which way. You couldn’t aim at somebody’s head, even if you wanted to do that. Also, if you shot one at the ground, it wouldn’t bounce up like a ball.”
“What about a pepper spray ball?”
Hans said, “They aren’t accurate either. If you get hit, the ball explodes like a paintball, just a little harder.”
“How do you know this?”
Hans smiled, “I got hit by one. Actually, I got hit by about twelve of them.”
Hans drank some of his Lime-a-Rita. He swallowed and said, “Well, I was supposed to demonstrate what happens when you get hit by a pepper ball. This new guy was supposed to fire one round at me. He said that he was a professional paintballer. Maybe he was. I don’t know. All I know is that this asshole fired a bunch of rounds at me.”
“That didn’t go well?”
Hans laughed, “I was on the ground, throwing up. I couldn’t see, and I was cursing at my sergeant.”
“Then what happened?”
Hans lit up another smoke. “Well, the sergeant wasn’t all that mad that I was yelling and swearing at him. He told me that he knew I was in incredible pain at the time. Then the sergeant asked me if I wanted to shoot a rubber bullet for the next part of the training. I told him, ‘Yes’, and then he wanted to know if I wanted to have the guy who shot at me as my target. I told him, ‘Yes’, to that too.”
I asked Hans, “So, what did you shoot at the paintball pro?”
Hans smiled, “A 203 round.”
“Shit. What was that like?”
Hans smiled wider, “It’s like hitting a guy in the chest with a bag of sand.”
Hans looked exhausted, but he went on, “Before I shot the round, I told the sergeant that the paintball guy seemed a little too close. The sergeant said that he was just fine where he was. And the sergeant said, ‘Besides, he’s got on body armor’. “
“How did it go?”
Hans smiled even wider, “It lifted him right off his damn feet.”
Did he take it well?”
“No. The guy got up and came running at me. He wanted to fight. I still had the M4 in my hands, so I hit him with that. I didn’t hit any place that would show. I just butt stroked him across the side of his helmet. Then he went down for a bit.”
Hans paused for a moment, and continued, “The sergeant came over and talked to the troop. He told the guy, ‘Now when you fired all those rounds at Specialist Pauc, he didn’t try to kill you. But you get hit by a rubber bullet, and you come here wanting to kill him. Pauc is a real soldier’.”
I said, “Nice.”
Hans squinted at me with his bloodshot eyes and smiled.
He said, “Yeah.”
This first appeared in The Havok Journal on March 31, 2021.