April 22, 2010

Virginia instructors teach Modern Army Combatives

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

FORT PICKETT, Va. — National Guard Soldiers and Reservists from across  the country completed the Modern Army Combatives, skill level one certification course at the Blackstone Armory April 16. The 39 Soldiers were taught the basics of hand-to-hand combat by the instructors from the Fort Pickett-based 1st Battalion, 183rd Regiment, Regional Training Institute.


Spc. Jim Rhodes, a Michigan Soldier with the Camp Grayling-based 1071st Maintenance Company, looks to his instructor for assurance that he is properly executing the arm bar he is applying to Staff Sgt. Osbardo Hecha, an Ohio Guardsman from the Cleveland-based Company A, 237th Brigade Support Battalion during the final testing of Army Combatives level one training at the Blackstone Amory. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos from Army Combatives training.

The five-day class is designed to teach the Soldiers the basics of army combat. The course focused on styles of mixed martial-arts with many of the moves based on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which highlights grappling and especially ground-fighting techniques with the goal of gaining a dominant position using joint locks and choke holds to force an opponent to submit or be forced unconscious.

“Level one combatives is the basics, the building blocks,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Stemmler, an instructor with the 183rd who recently took home the first-place title for the lightweight division in the 2010 Army National Guard Combatives Tournament at Fort Benning, Ga. “We teach them three fundamental drills. Stuff that if they were ever in a situation in Iraq, or Afghanistan or wherever, that they can utilize to get to a better position and either get away, hold the enemy there until their battle buddies can arrive, or just finish the fight themselves.”

Soldiers in the field are often put into situations in Iraq and Afghanistan where they may not be able to use their rifles or are unable to reach their sidearm in time to stop an enemy. This is one of the many reasons the Chief of Staff of the Army has placed special emphasis on this kind of instruction and has made it a common warrior task.

“It is a skill that every Soldier needs,” emphasized Stemmler, a veteran of multiple combat tours. “In Iraq or Afghanistan when you clear a room everyone thinks they can draw their weapon, when the reality is you’re not always going to have that time.”

“Before you know it, your hands are going to be on the enemy, or their hands are going to be on you and you need to know how to react. That’s why level one teaches the basics, so if I clear a room and he tackles me, and he’s on top of me, now I know how to get out of that.”

The students, many from the Virginia Guard’s 116th Brigade Combat Team, learned that the size of the fighter and how strong the opponent is does not always guarantee success. They learned that correct form and proper techniques are just as important as size and strength.


Master Sgt. Robert Mullins applies a choke hold to his son, Spc. Bryan Mullins during the final testing at the Modern Army Combatives Program certification level one training at the Blackstone Armory in Blackstone, Va., April 16. The Mullins' serve the Commonwealth of Virginia together in the Gate City-based 1030th Transportation Company.

Please visit the Virginia Guard Flickr page for more photos from Army Combatives training.

“It teaches you to learn the technique as opposed to strength,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert J. Homer, course manager. “Strength doesn’t always win fights. It’s technique...Through the program it shows if you have good technique, strength won’t always win.”

Several Soldiers who have been trying to get started in the rapidly growing popular sport of MMA on the civilian side were given an edge on their competitors by learning skills they may have had trouble acquiring in the civilian sector.

“I’d been trying to learn how to grapple for several months now and the gym I go to, the guys have been doing it for several years, so they don’t really remember how to explain it anymore,” said Spc. Bryan Mullins, a student from the Gate City-based 1030th Transportation Company who attended the course with his father. “Coming to this class helped me a lot to learn the steps and the fundamentals of the moves.”

This class was a good representation of a common theme reflected in today’s National Guard and that is the concept of family involvement. In addition to the father and son, there was also a husband and wife enrolled in the course together and a brother of one of the instructor’s, Spc. Josh Stemmler, was also a student in the course.

“A lot of time the only thing people hear is the bad stuff and then when they see a husband and a wife or father and son in the same unit, they’ll say, ‘there’s got to be something good’,” said Master Sgt. Robert Mullins, 1030th Transportation Company. “His brother joined and no one twisted his arm.”

Except in the case of Modern Army Combatives where someone probably did.

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