ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Six Soldiers from the Army Sustainment Command received their certificates of training after completing the weeklong Combatives Level I course here, Jan. 10, officially making them Basic Combatives Instructors.

The graduation ceremony was held at the Rock Island Arsenal Physical Fitness Center.

Sgt. 1st Class Jared Clapper, who serves in Army Mobility, earned top honors as the class's distinguished honor graduate.

"I feel it was because I kept a positive attitude from day one," said Clapper. "I volunteered for all the choke holds so they could practice on me. This has made me better, ready to train."

The other graduates were Maj. Peter Studebaker, Field Support Office; Sgt. 1st Class Darrell Buck, Field Support Office; Sgt. 1st Class John McLaughlin, Surgeon's Office; Staff Sgt. Shawn Hayden, Intelligence Office; and Sgt. Robert Hanners, General Supply Office.

"This makes me more confident that I can defend myself if necessary," said Hanners. "And, if I'm better trained, my squad will be better trained."

Course instructor and primary combatives instructor at RIA, Sgt. 1st Class David Stephenson, said the training is valuable for Soldiers at all levels.

"It's so much more than fighting," said Stephenson. "In today's environment, every tool helps. This will help you finish the fight."

The Combatives Level I course is designed to teach Soldiers the basics of self-defense and to familiarize them with the challenges of hand-to-hand combat. Stephenson also said the course helps open Soldiers' minds; that they can use their bodies in many different ways to defend themselves or take down an opponent.

Days one through four focus on learning and executing ground-fighting techniques. The Soldiers' skills are then tested on the fifth and final day.

Stephenson said he plans to run combatives courses on RIA at least once per quarter.