JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- U.S. Air Force Maj. Frederick Cruz from the Hawaii Air National Guard, pins down fellow Airman on shallow ocean waves as water splashed after each body hit. Sparring with Airman 1st Class Christian Torres, they alternate control with each movement.

Both Airmen participated in a U.S. Army Combatives Level-1 program sponsored by the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Feb. 19-22.

Approximately a dozen U.S. Soldiers and Airmen from active duty and the National Guard grappled with white-knuckled concentration during the Army Combatives program in the four-day course.

According to the website featuring the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, based at Fort Benning, Ga., the mission of the U.S. Army Combatives Course is to train Leaders and Soldiers in close quarters Combatives in order to instill the Warrior Ethos and prepare Soldiers to close with and defeat the enemy in hand to hand combat.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Jeffery Jenkins, a wheeled vehicle mechanic, also a Level-3 Combatives instructor with the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, reinforced the mission statement regarding mental toughness.

"The importance of the U.S. Army Combatives is that it helps build individual fitness, confidence and mental strength," said Jenkins. "The benefit of this program is to help instill the Warrior Ethos mentality with the never quit attitude, never leave a fallen comrade and place the mission first."

Jenkins stated that endurance and mental intensity - not solely physical strength - are paramount in successful hand-to-hand combat. The Army Combatives program tests participants from varying physical fitness levels, experiences, and backgrounds.

"The most challenging part of the course has been keeping up with the physical training and staying on my toes at all times," said Torres. "Especially remembering my techniques when you're physically and mentally exhausted." The enemy doesn't care if you're tired, he added.

Training others is just what Soldiers and Airmen like Cruz hope to take back with their new skillset.

"What I hope to get out of the course is a better understanding on how to defeat opponents using hand-to-hand combat," said Cruz. "This has been a great opportunity to learn from the U.S. Army Combatives program, and I look forward to taking this new set of skills and knowledge learned to my fellow Airmen."

The Modern Army Combatives Program started in 1995 with the 2nd Ranger Battalion. It has been incorporated into the new TC 3-25.150, the Army Ground Fighting Techniques publication, and Basic Combatives is one of the Forty Warrior Core Tasks of the Warrior Ethos initiative.

"What we're teaching these Soldiers and Airman today is quite simple, and that is to be confident and mentally prepared to defeat their enemy if needed in hand to hand combat," said Jenkins.