FORT LEE, Va. (March 29, 2018) -- A group of enterprising 16th Ordnance Battalion noncommissioned officers here are leading a robust effort to teach Modern Army Combatives to advanced individual training troops assigned to the Ordnance School.

The noncoms - Staff Sergeants Darwin Quinteros, David Reed, Christopher Penley, Jeffrey Chong, Robert Lindsey and Michael Kiser - are instructors at the school. They began training students in basic techniques roughly five months ago.

"We started a pilot program with about 40 Soldiers in Bravo Company. They really enjoyed it, and it was good physical training with no injuries," said Kiser, a master combatives trainer who initiated the voluntary program with a fellow instructor last summer.

Combatives, which encompasses hand-to-hand fighting along with rifle and bayonet techniques, surfaced in the U.S. military around World War II. It has been accepted and practiced at varying degrees since then. The latest resurgence in the Army began in 2002 with the Modern Army Combatives Program, spurred by U.S. involvement in the Middle East and the potential there for close quarters combat.

In the 16th Ord. Bn., the program has grown to as many as 90 participants who are enrolled in the overnight Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic Course, which enables the Ord. School to make maximum use of its training bay facilities. The troops receive about 10 hours of combatives instruction on a biweekly basis. They are not just learning grappling moves (an earlier criticism of the program), said Kiser, but how to integrate tactics and techniques in a field environment.

"With the Modern Army Combatives Program," he said, "we're taking Soldiers, putting them in a tactical environment, putting them in kit (personal protective gear), giving them dummy weapons, and they're clearing rooms (a tactic widely practiced by U.S. forces in hostile urban areas). They are engaging each other in techniques like post, frame and hook - training that is required by the combatives manual."

Besides being an alternative PT hit among participants - "The students are all about it," said Kiser - the training supports the battalion's equal opportunity program and Soldiering goals. Prior to combatives, he said, student behavior did not always meet school-prescribed standards of conduct, but troops seem to appreciate and respect each other more since the training started.

"Since the combatives program has been going on, a lot has changed," he said. "I think that's because students are getting the chance to get their aggression out." It also may be due to the deference present in fighting etiquette. "When they're engaging each other, we require them to show respect toward each other before starting a bout - shake hands, 'dab it up' or whatever they prefer. That shows them they have to acknowledge their opponent."

Reed agreed with Kiser's assessment of the program, noting that he too has witnessed changes to not only how students respond to each other, but also improvements in academic performance.

"In the classroom, there is more self-discipline, and Soldiers hold themselves to a higher standard," he said. "When they first started, they'd be standing at the position of attention, looking slouched over, but after the classes, you can see them start to develop that warrior mindset. They're showing pride in themselves."

The warrior mindset is critical to success in combatives, said Kiser, and something he and the other instructors emphasize continuously during training.

"Everybody can be a fighter, but everybody isn't a warrior," he said. "Warriors will engage the enemy; it's the willingness to close the distance. If that enemy is stronger, faster, bigger or more intimidating than you, a warrior will still fight that enemy.

"I try to get Soldiers to take that mindset through life, so if they're dealing with a difficult situation - whether it's financial, family or relationship - they'll confidently step forward to engage the problem, even if it's bigger than anything they've encountered before."

Kiser, Reed and the other instructors aim to take combatives and its warrior mindset on a road trip. They hope to expand the program to the entire 59th Ordnance Brigade through its routinely scheduled field training exercise.

"Our goal is to bring combatives to every MOS (program of instruction) here," said Kiser, further noting how it could be integrated into the staple Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills all units tend to focus on in a field environment.

For the first time, he also noted, Combatives instruction will be included in an upcoming ODX, the moniker for the Ordnance School's end-of-cycle culmination training exercise. The impact of combatives on student performance at that broader level will determine its long-term implementation as a routine ODX event.