Combatives instructor fighting to make a difference for junior Soldiers
June 19, 2009
Staff Sgt. Christopher Massey spends 32 days building up the future of the Army ... 48 Soldiers at a time.
He'll tell you that he's just doing his job, trying to make sure that soldiers attending his Warrior Leader's Course (WLC) know what right looks like.
"So often, we as NCOs just take people's word for what 'right' really is," he said. "WLC tells the sergeants that come through here what the Army expects from them in their position as a leader. We give them the tools to be successful at it, and give them the opportunity to observe what right looks like."
With 11 years of service and one Operation Iraqi Freedom deployment under his belt, Massey's current position is perhaps his most important yet. As a Small Group Leader for the WLC taught at the 7th U.S. Army's Noncommissioned Officer Academy, located at the Joint Multinational Training Command in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Massey knows his position as a mentor is important to the careers of many young troops.
"Knowing that Soldiers react to situations the way they are trained motivates me to give soldiers the best training I can," he said. "I understand that soldiers will die in combat, and sometimes there is nothing we can do about it, but I would not be able to live with myself if I ever thought a Soldier died because I failed to train them properly."
He used his own experiences on the battlefield to lead troops in classroom discussions and a realistic 96-hour scenario driven training exercise that mirrors the contemporary operation environment that soldiers face in support of Contingency Operations world-wide.
"My SGL, during PLDC, appeared to be very lazy. She spent no more time than was absolutely required with us, and was very blatant about not caring about making us into better leaders," he said. "NCOs teach and lead by experience. My trip to Iraq during 2004-2005 is one of the many experiences that get's talked about when giving examples of combat stressors, different types of leadership, or the importance of discipline."
In addition to his own experiences, Massey said it is important for other soldiers to share their experiences, too.
"Soldiers in small groups are encouraged to share their own experiences, and how they relate to the topic we are learning about," he said, emphasizing that he never stops learning. "My personal goal is to ensure that every soldier coming through my class understands the material to the best of his ability, observes his or her habits as a soldier and a leader; and I give him or her tough realistic criticism (positive and negative) that can be used to become better NCOs," he said - noting that it's all in a day's work.
But, Massey doesn't just stop there. Outside of his duty hours, Massey took it upon himself to learn and become proficient in Army Combatives. Until recently, he was the only Modern Army Combatives, level four, instructor within the Grafenwoehr footprint.
He resourced and constructed a combative facility that is envied by instructors throughout Europe. He has trained and certified more than 1,000 U.S. and European soldiers on level one technique, and more than 400 on level two.
"I believe the biggest gain from the combatives program, as a whole, is the confidence it gives an individual to close the distance with an enemy. This confidence extends well beyond just hand-to-hand confidence," he said, recommending that all soldiers should seek out their local level three-and -four instructors to provide scenario-based training, and not just certification.
At work, Massey will tell you, he's just doing his job. But he sacrifices his personal time for the sake of training soldiers, whether it's putting in extra hours for study groups, or teaching combative courses - what he's too modest to admit is that he epitomizes what a leader is - he is what right looks like.