Rule number one, you do not talk about Gamberi fight club
June 7, 2013
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- What would you do if someone punched you in the face? Would you run away or take a step back, put your guard up and defend yourself?
Deployed servicemembers and civilians took advantage of a Modern Army Combatives Program (MACP) class taught by certified instructors at Forward Operating Base Gamberi.
The MACP is the approved combatives system of the U.S. Army, developed in the late 1990's by U.S. Army Rangers. According to the school's web site, the MACP is designed to "instill the Warrior Ethos and prepare Soldiers to defeat the enemy in hand-to-hand combat."
"I thought it was a good idea to enhance the Soldiers' capabilities to defend themselves," said Staff Sgt. Oscar Pineda, one of the instructors. He serves as a cavalry scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
Pineda enjoys practicing martial arts having studied Hapkido, Karate, and Ju Jitsu and is MACP Level 2 certified. The native of Miami, Fla., said to keep things interesting he showed the participants additional techniques derived from Ju Jitsu and Muay Thai.
The tactical combatives classes lasted two hours and after each session the shirts of some of the participants were drenched in sweat. The group got together to "roll" with one another, not because they wanted to get into a fight but because they wanted to learn some type of self-defense.
"The class was… painfully, awesome," said Spc. Hilda Clayton, who participated in the combatives course, and is now Level 1 certified.
The native of Augusta, Ga., said the instructors were very thorough and explained the class very well. She serves as a combat documentation/production specialist, assigned to the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera), based out of Fort Meade, Md.
"The instructors went through the movements slowly and if you needed extra help, they were more than willing to help you," said Clayton.
The group took turns alternating with wrestling partners, switching to a different person at designated times.
"The more you rolled with the others; the more [the instructors] talked to you and told you what to do."
The meetings happened in a small gym on FOB Gamberi, after most participants were done with their work duties. The group of women and men took up half of the gym, wrestling on blue training mats with music playing on a speaker system used for motivation.
The level 1 class was set up in the gym and the instructor was around after the hour to answer any questions on the basic combatives skills. The level 2 certification course was later set up at the troop medical clinic where the instructors showed advanced ground fighting combatives techniques.
"The level 2 combatives training was very intense from the day we started, a wake-up from level 1," said Rudy Gomez, a civilian contractor with Raytheon, Intelligence Mobile Education and Training Team.
Gomez said the class learned submissions moves, body positioning moves, intermediate mount escapes and clinch fighting.
The Orange County, Calif., native said the instructors were very strict on technique and were there not just to show how to knock someone out. Gomez said the instructors put a beating on them and physically put them through hell.
He said he knew a little bit of self defense techniques and wanted to learn more, so he took advantage of the level 2 class offered on Gamberi.
"Having those skills while deployed might not only save my life one day but I may save the life of a fellow Soldier," said Gomez.
After his certification, Gomez said he got the full extent of the level 2 combatives course, adding that the instructors offered to show other moves not in the regular course.
"During the class, you learn to be patient, find your comfort zone on the mat and work on technique. The instructors smoked the hell out of us every damn day," said Gomez. "They tried to make you quit, but it only made you stronger as a Soldier, knowing that you can finish a fight no matter how fatigued you were."
Gomez said Soldiers showed up to class after going out on 12 hour missions; others worked 8 hours a day and still made it to the class.
"As far as being deployed, a lot of us do have weapons, but after taking the combatives class, if there is an encounter where you are attacked you know you can defend yourself," said Gomez.
"They loved the fact they learned to fight standing up and if taken down, they can defend themselves on the ground," said Pineda.
Another Soldier who participated in both levels of the MACP was Sgt. Benjamin Behnke. He also serves as a cavalry scout with HHC, 4th BCT, 1st Cav. Div.
The native of Grand Rapids, Mi., said maintaining physically fit is part of his job. While working out at the gym someone asked him if he would like to become level 1 and 2 certified. He said he didn't hesitate to join because he liked mixed martial arts.
Behnke said the difference between mixed-martial arts and the U.S. Army Combatives is that you learn to fight with uniforms on, and learn how to use your opponent's uniform to your advantage.
"In Level 1 you learn the basic fundamentals of hand-to-hand combat. When you go to Level 2, you learn how to transition those fundamentals to more experienced moves," said Behnke.
Behnke suggested more people in the Army take a combatives course, especially while deployed.
"Not only is it good physical training, it prepares you in the event you are in a situation where you have to use your hands. It could be the difference between saving your life or not," said Behnke. "I think it's important for everyone to take this class, regardless of [military occupational specialty].
Pineda said he will continue to conduct MACP classes until the 4th BCT redeploys to Fort Hood. Training martial arts to deployed personnel is not about hurting other people.
"It takes a lot of discipline to manage your emotions when the time comes," said Pineda. "I think it's good for the soul."