FORT RUCKER, Ala. --What do keys, rat-tail combs, whistles, screwdrivers, pens and pencils all have in common'

Teenagers, parents and Fort Rucker employees who attended the April 5 Sexual Assault Awareness Month self-defense training learned that all these common, everyday items are potential weapons.

They also learned that while knowing a few self-defense moves builds confidence, the best way to protect themselves is to remain mindful of their surroundings and to trust their instincts.

Self-defense is more about people using their smarts than their fists, according to course instructors and Ozark Police officers Lt. Frankie Peterman and James Isler.

"Self-defense actually means doing everything possible to avoid fighting someone who threatens or attacks you," Isler said. "If you are in a situation and get an uncomfortable feeling about someone or something, trust it. Being aware of your surroundings at all times is key," he said.

Of course there might be situations when people's physical well-being is threatened, and when that happens, it is vital they know the best way to save themselves from potential harm.

As Isler demonstrated several simple defensive moves, he reminded participants to put all their anger into the motions.

"Remember, this person wants to kill or hurt you, your Family and your loved ones. You have to get angry and mean with a person like that," he said. "You need to use whatever means are necessary."

"I am more observant of my surroundings and I stay vigilant," said Faye Brooks, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security operations assistant and training participant. "But I learned that I can, and will defend myself if necessary."

Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program sponsored the hands-on, interactive activity presented at Fortenberry-Colton Physical Fitness Facility by self-defense experts, including Raymond Massey, special agent with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command.

Massey discussed the subject of rape and described what local investigations revealed about both the victims and the perpetrators.

"I learned that rape happens in the local area much more often than I thought," said Kay Mackey, DPTMS plans and operations specialist who joined the more than 30 participants in the class.

Massey cautioned against being too complacent and distracted when out and about, depicting someone balancing talking on a cell phone, carrying groceries and searching her handbag for her car keys while walking through a parking lot.

"Someone in that situation is too distracted to notice potential harm," Massey said. "Always have your car keys in your hand before walking to your car."

Coordinated by Luverne Fryer, ACS lead victim advocate, the event focused on simple, effective techniques that even a small person can use to defend themselves against a large one.

"Start to cry, scream, take a basic karate stance and yell or grunt whatever you must to surprise and mentally disarm an attacker," said Eldridge Conley, retired CID command sergeant major.

Conley, who is also a Grand Master of American Keichu-Do Karate, added, "Whatever you do, be sure to scratch as much as that you can provide officials with DNA evidence, which can potentially be used to identify and capture the attacker," he said.

"When it comes to confidence building, there's nothing like a hands-on self-defense class," Isler said. "You can read about it and watch it over and over, but you actually have to practice the moves yourself to understand how it works for you."

"It raised my level of confidence a great deal. Now I realize I can do things to protect myself. I would definitely recommend this type of class to others," Brooks said.