U.S. and Iraqi soldiers had a unique training opportunity Feb. 7, crawling toward each other in a seven-on-seven "Breaveheart" rumble at Forward Operating Base Echo.
The goal of the competition was to take down the opposing teams "king" using techniques learned in their 10-day, level-two combatives class. To get to the king, the combatants had to fight their way through chokes and take-downs while trying to get their opponents to tap out.
It was quite an experience for the Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and the 4th Battalion, 8th Iraqi Army Division.
For Pvt. Aqueel, one of the four Iraqi Soldiers going through the class, competitions like this one are what make learning hand-to-hand combat fun.
"The best part of this class is the fighting," he said. "It's not real fighting but it looks real and it can be used in real situations."
Spc. Tyhavis Dennis, Company F, 1st Bn., 15th Inf. Regt., said a typical day begins at 8:00 a.m. with warm-up and rotational exercises, followed by a review of moves the students learned the day before.
"When we do the review, if anyone had a problem with any move, we go over that move again," he said.
Dennis explained how, when the class reviews a move, two Soldiers demonstrate it and are critiqued by the rest of the class.
"We help each other," he said.
Chatter amongst the class is crucial according to Staff Sgt. Joe Vasquez, an instructor in the course. Each combatives move is taught visually and verbally.
"We do and say the moves because these are the guys that are going back to their companies and teaching this," Vasquez said. "They are going to be the subject matter experts, so they have to be able to do the move and explain how they are doing it."
Aqueel said that combatives is not taught in the Iraqi Army, so he will go back to his unit to teach his fellow soldiers.
Vasquez said the quicker students understand a particular move, the quicker they can move on to something else. They learn between five and 10 moves a day.
Vasquez, who is one of seven level-four combatives certified Soldiers in the battalion, explained that more goes into learning how to fight than grappling moves.
"We do slaps and punches so they know what contact feels like," he said. "We also do things like dives and rolls so they know how to land without getting injured. There is a difference between hurt and injured. The Soldiers need to know that."
Each move, whether it's fighting or falling, is taught in detail, with emphasis on technique instead of brute strength. Dennis explained that strength plays little part in properly executing a move. The instructors make sure the students understand that.
"They tire us out by making us do 'burpies,'" he said. "When we're done, all we have is technique because we are so tired. It makes us better fighters."
A burpie is a push-up followed by a quick jump in the air with fingers and arms extended, then back down to a push-up and repeat.
The class is tough but fun, Vasquez saidI, and it teaches the students a deeper lesson about being a Soldier.
"It builds esprit de corps and a sense of confidence," he said. "It instills in them the Warrior Ethos and the Soldier's creed. It makes it true to them.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16