FORWARD OPERATING BASE GARRY OWEN, Iraq - Eighteen U.S. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, also known as Garry Owen troops, and the 988th Military Police Company, achieved level-one certification in Modern Army Combatives March 19 after training six nights a week in a simple canvas tent here.

The troops grappled in a controlled hand-to-hand fighting style taught inside the tent, referred to as the 'Fight House.'

"The Fight House is a great way to release some of the frustrations of a deployment," said Spc. Jared Warner, a Garry Owen troop from Bakersfield, Calif.

A typical session in the Fight House began with a round of stretching as Soldiers talked with each other about their difficulties from the previous day's training. Following a brief after-action review, the troops proceeded with a vigorous warm-up, explaining proper procedures for falling and escaping during a fight while minimizing the risk of injury.

An experienced instructor conducted the classes each night, followed by a practical exercise in which participants paired off and tried new techniques step-by-step.

As with all other structures on the battalion's outpost, the Fight House was built from the ground-up by Garry Owen Soldiers. Master Sgt. Daniel Pilewski, a level-four master trainer in Modern Army Combatives, and his team of noncommissioned officers, erected a spare tent and found a local Iraqi businessman who could supply mats, gloves and headgear for the training.

"We are training soldiers to build warrior spirit and regain aggressiveness sometimes lost throughout a long deployment," said 1st Sgt. Robert Bowman, a combatives trainer. "It's also a great way to relieve stress, keep busy and stay fit."

The instructors have certified their first batch of combative students and 12 more are expected to graduate next month. The training may be grueling, but the Garry Owen troops said the rewards are clearly seen in the Fight House.