FORT LEE, VA (July 15, 2010)- The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have reiterated the notion that Soldiers need to be tactically proficient first and foremost.

That's why the mortuary affairs Soldiers of the 54th Quartermaster Company receive a heavy dose of combatives training on a weekly basis.

Forty-six members of the 530th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 49th QM Group element converged on Training Area 9 July 8 to build on those skills needed to successfully engage in hand-to-hand combat. Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Frazier was the lead instructor and gave this explanation on why it is important to train in combatives.

"The Army is focused on the total Soldier concept," said Frazier, a level three (out of four) combatives instructor. "It's not just the skills of your military occupational specialty, because we also have to be fighters. We have to think and train along those lines."

The training, conducted at the outdoors combatives shelter, began with a demonstration of basic techniques, specifically gaining and maintaining dominant body positions. Soldiers paired with one another and practiced three positions - the guard, the mount and side control.

"The idea is to wind up on top because it is the better position to defend oneself and better to take the opponent out," said Frazier.

Soldiers practiced the moves for several different iterations until they were visibly spent. Temperatures in the 90s and high humidity didn't help. Frazier said repetition and stress are important.

"I don't want to know how Soldiers work when they are well rested," he said. "I want to know how you work when you are tired. If you can still perform the same way tired as when you are rested, then I've got a good Soldier ... a killer."

Three hours after the training began, Soldiers put their newfound skills to use in a random competition that featured four bouts of two minutes each. Spc. Alisha Ricketts said the time spent at the combative shelter was a welcome change and a challenging one.

"It is different," she said. "It's not MOS-geared, which is a nice change, because we always do stuff that is geared toward mortuary affairs.

"And, yes, I was exhausted."

Sgt. Efrain Perez had similar thoughts.

"It was outstanding," he said, "very high speed. I definitely think it's something Soldiers look forward to doing and learning more about."

Frazier said he felt positive about the experience.

"The Soldiers took the training really well," he said. "They stayed motivated, and they felt like they got something out of it. That's the main thing. Our first sergeant's goal is to provide realistic training in all that we do and to make sure that it's beneficial."

Several 49th QM Group companies have deployed to Southwest Asia and have been assigned missions outside of their core functions. It isn't likely any of the mortuary affairs units have been assigned such missions because they perform a highly specialized function. However, Soldiers must train for the unlikely scenarios, said Frazier.

"Our goal is to keep Soldiers battle-focused," he said. "They may not always be stationed at Fort Lee but at a division where they may be placed in a position in which this type of training can be useful."