December 17, 2008

Guardsmen lay the smack down!

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Spc. Christopher Starks of Norfolk (top) tries to mount his partner Spc. Sur Thompson of Roanoke during combatives training. The Soldiers spent five days practicing their ground-fighting skills at Fort Pickett. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT PICKETT, Va. — It could be said that learning to defend one’s self is an important skill for anyone to learn, but for Soldiers it can mean the difference between life and death. That’s why some Soldiers are being given the chance to learn or improve those skills in a controlled environment. 

Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard, alongside Army reservists and Guardsmen from Idaho, came to Fort Pickett, Va. to learn Modern Army Combatives skill level one certification from instructors from the 1st Battalion, 183rd Regimental Training Institute through the commissioning authority at Fort Benning, Ga.

The 40-hour course, which began Dec. 8 and ran through Dec. 12, is aimed at teaching Soldiers the basics of modern army combatives. The course focuses on styles of mixed martial-arts with many of the moves based on Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, a martial-art that focuses on 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 knocked out depending on what submission method is used.

Throughout the phase the students learn 13 core movements. “The core dynamic is from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. A lot of the things we teach, the name is changed to fit the dynamic of the Army’s understanding,” said Sgt. 1st Class Robert J. Homer, course manager. “The move is the same, the name is just changed.”

Homer, as well as some of the students, has additional experience in MMA from civilian based training institutes. Homer, in addition to being level four trained by the Army, has been training for almost five years, and has trained in Tae Kwan Do and several other fields of MMA, but his main focus has been in BJJ. He has even been trained by individuals from the Charles Gracie Academy in California.

Staff Sgt.Victor Beasley takes a defensive posture during training at the Army Modern Combatives, skill level one certification course at Fort Pickett, Va. Beasley is an Artilleryman with the Richmond-based A Co. 1st Batallion, 111th Field Artillery. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“I had a feeling that it was a little bit different, a little more technical than civilian MMA,” said Spc. Sur Thompson, a cook from E Co., 429th Forward Support Battalion, who has been training in Roanoke for some time now.  “We don’t get as technical as we do here.”

Many of the moves he had learned before and had been executing in his personal training, but now he has learned why he was executing the moves in the first place, said Thompson.

All Soldiers are now required to learn basic combatives at Basic Combat Training, but the level one course takes the training to the next step and builds on the Soldier’s understanding of the principals learned in basic training. The level one course is also a “train-the trainer” course, meaning graduates will then be certified to go back to their units and train Soldiers at the platoon level.

Upon completion of level one, Soldiers are then qualified to move on to level two. Skill level two is an 80-hour, two-week course that builds off of the skills introduced in the basic course. It is tailored to teach the more advanced techniques which illuminate why the basic techniques are performed, as well as the philosophy/methodology of the program.

Level two graduates are often encouraged to move onto skill level three, a 160-hour, four-week course where Soldiers build from the skills taught in the previous two courses. It is designed to take the skills that have been until now stand alone, and integrate them into mission essential task list training.

The final phase of the Modern Army Combatives course is skill level four. Skill level four is a 160-hour, four week course designed to provide Unit of Action and higher level master trainers.

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