FORT BENNING, Ga. (Oct. 5, 2018) - Five Fort Benning Soldiers and one Fort Benning Department of the Army civilian became the first Americans to graduate from the German army infantry combatives course Sept. 27.

The graduation ceremony took place at the Kelley Hill Recreation Center and represented three weeks of intense close combat.

During the first week, students were given an introduction to armed and unarmed striking combos, primary and secondary weapon transitions, knife defenses and transitions, and close-quarter battle training. In the second week, students learned choking and clinching defenses, ground fighting technique and handcuffing.

"The first two weeks of the course were basically to establish a baseline of their tactics, how they do hand-to-hand and close-quarters combat," said Sgt. 1st Class Timothy Farris, branch chief for the U.S. Army Combatives Course. "They have a lot of good techniques, and they do a really good job of having the combat mindset. They have lots of weapons transitions where they are making you work with all of your tools, your primary weapons system and your secondary weapons system. We're really excited about maybe experimenting with that in our course."

In the final week of the course, students put their skills to the test during a live-fire simulation practical exercise. During the exercise, students practiced reacting to contact when entering and clearing building, defending themselves, and disarming and capturing assailants.

Farris said the practical exercises in the course were beneficial to help them tighten their tactical skills.

"Here and now the course exposes weaknesses so that way you can fix those weaknesses before you move down range when you and your buddy's life is on the line," said Farris.

He added staying open-minded to different ways of doing things can be key to staying alive.

"If you stay close-minded and you think there's only one way of doing anything, you're going to fall behind, and that's when you are going to lose," Farris said.

Different tactics were not the only thing Farris took away from the course. He also built lasting friendships with his German counterparts.

"I think it's always good to strengthen your ties with your allies," Farris said. "The combatives community is a small community, so when you're in there beating each other up every day, you build a really strong bond. You become really good friends with your comrades and the people you work with because you're making each other better."

Although the goal may have been for the American Soldiers to learn from the German instructors, German army Master Sgt. Bert Bauer, branch chief for the German Infantry Combatives Program, said the experience was just as informative for him.

"I think we can learn from each other," Bauer said. "Our system is more of a fighting system. We don't have rules, and we can use all of what we have - rifle, pistol, knife. But I think the American program is much better in kickboxing and ground fighting, grappling and wrestling, and that is maybe not so important to us yet but may be in the future."

Bauer added he also learned how to teach in another language in another country, which he said wasn't as easy as teaching in his country. But he had plenty of help from the American Soldiers, and these three weeks have brought both of the countries closer together.