By Hiro Chang, Presidio of Monterey Public AffairsJuly 2, 2010
PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. - Pfc. Leslie Steele, Co. B, 229th Military Intelligence Battalion, was supposed to be home in Fulton, Miss. celebrating her brother's 18th birthday.
Instead, Steele and 24 other Soldiers fought through three grueling rounds of clinch drills, enduring punches and grappling, with experienced combatants to earn their instructor-level Modern Army Combatives Program certification at the Price Fitness Center here June 12.
"I was supposed to certify alone when I came back from leave," Steele said. "But I wanted to certify with my battle buddies," she added.
The three rounds were enough for the Soldiers to receive their certificates and bring a close to a long day to nurse their bruises, but a few of the Soldiers took on their instructors' challenge of a fourth round. Steele was one of them.
"I didn't feel the three rounds were enough," Steele said. "It just wasn't satisfied with (my previous matches) since I was supposed to be home right now."
She was supposed to be home with the family she hadn't seen since Christmas.
Instead Steele got her fourth round, this time with a bigger, stronger and more experienced opponent, Co. B 229th Military Intelligence Company Commander Capt. Christopher Green, who towered over Steele by at least five inches and had an over -70-pound advantage.
Instead, after several fruitless attempts to lock her arms around the massive Green, Steele met the fate of many who clash in the classic confrontation of fist-to-face, she was knocked out.
She was supposed to wake up in her own bed.
Instead Steele struggled to refocus her eyes to the ceiling as Green shouted "Put your mouthpiece back in," repeatedly because he and his fellow Modern Army Combatives Program instructors knew Steele wasn't done.
"Of course, my first thought was concern for Steele's well-being," Green said. "Anytime a commander sees his Soldier go down you worry," he added.
Green said he felt assured of his Soldiers safety with California Medical Detachment medic Sgt. David Ramos, who is also a recent graduate of the MACP, for medical support.
Sgt. 1st Class Brent Church, Co. B, 229th Military Intelligence platoon sergeant and primary MACP instructor, shared the same sentiment but said it is a necessary part of the training.
"Of course it's not easy to watch. It's especially painful to watch a young female get rocked. They're not only our students, but part of our Army Family," Church said.
"On the other hand, all Soldiers go into the certification expecting a serious challenge, and we facilitate that safely. They learned a lot about themselves that day, and built stronger, more confident Soldiers," Church added.
After a quick check from Ramos, Steele quickly sprung up to her starting fighting stance, put her mouthpiece back in and achieved the clinch while all those in attendance cheered her on.
"When she got back up to continue the fight, I felt like a proud father in a way, and I'm sure the other cadre felt exactly the same," Church said. "To see the "never quit, never accept defeat" mentality in our Soldiers is the feeling non-commissioned officers live for; to know that we have trained them right.
Church said the Soldiers had endured 40 hours of instruction in basic Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, ground-grappling, and hours of conditioning exercises. The course started in April, and the Soldiers balanced their class requirements while attending the sessions three days a week.
Afterward, Steele certified with her fellow Soldiers and has the t-shirt to prove it. "I don't actually like combatives," Steele said laughing as she wiped her tears after her match with Green. "But my best friend, who is in Afghanistan right now and was certified here, motivated me to push through." She added.
"I told Steele she did not have to do the 4th round, but if she did I was going to push her," Green said after presenting Steele with her certificate and official "Bravo Bully" combatives instructor t-shirt.
"She said to me that she didn't yet feel she was pushed to the limit. She missed her flight home to stay for the clinch and she said she wanted to feel she 'earned it,' I promise, she and (the rest of her class) earned it," said Green.