By Vince Little, The BayonetNovember 20, 2009
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- The U.S. Army Combatives School has adopted a new teaching plan.
The Army is revamping the curriculum to take lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan and build more effective close-quarters fighters, said Matt Larsen, the school's director. The goal is to push advanced techniques down to the small-unit level, including basic training.
"We want Soldiers to be agile, adaptive and competent (so) they can adjust to the realities of the battlefield," Larsen said.
The modifications are based on feedback from across the Army and other factors, he said. More than 900 interviews were conducted with Soldiers who saw hand-to-hand combat in the villages, houses and streets of Iraq or Afghanistan.
Soldiers most often enter small houses and rooms during combat operations, so the Army wants to take the ground-grappling principles taught in combatives and emphasize them from a standing position, Larsen said.
"In the field, the fight is always over weapons and how to maintain control of them," he said. "That will be taught all the way down to basic training."
Knee strikes, clinch drills, fighting with weapons and combat equipment, and pushing terror suspects against the wall are among the upper-echelon combatives techniques Soldiers will now be exposed to at lower unit levels, Larsen said.
Larsen said the school will stick with the four pillars - instruction based on universal, foundational, motivational and tactical attributes - that allowed the program to thrive. But Soldiers often struggled to retain knowledge gained in unit combatives training, so adjustments were needed.
Levels 1 and 2 are being changed to the basic and tactical combatives courses, while the basic and tactical combatives instructor courses replace Levels 3 and 4. Under the new construct, the number of training hours at each tier remains the same - 40 in basic, 80 for tactical and 160 each within both instructor phases.
The school will begin implementing the new methods in the next month.
"Combatives is an integral part of what we do as Soldiers," Larsen said. "You can't effectively train in close-quarters combat without combatives. You're going to need it any place you can be hands-on with potential enemies."
He said more than 57,000 troops have graduated from the Army Combatives School since its inception in 2002 - including 50,374 (Level 1), 5,255 (Level 2), 1,408 (Level 3) and 564 (Level 4).
Briant Wells Fieldhouse on Fort Benning, Ga., home of the U.S. Army Combatives School, has extended its hours to 6 to 8 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday for Soldiers, civilians and family members who want to do combatives training on their own time.