Nearly 20 warriors received their combatives instructor certification in front of the Installation Management Command commanding general Dec. 7 at the Fort Belvoir Combatives Training Center.

IMCOM commanding general, Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael W. Williams and Matt Larsen, former Army Ranger and founder of the Modern Army Combatives program witnessed the best combatives fighters in their respective units accepting their diplomas.

Fort Belvoir garrison commander Col. John J. Strycula, Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane and Headquarters Battalion commander Lt. Col. R. Dwayne Bowyer were present at the ceremony as well.

The ceremony began at 11 a.m. with opening remarks and a speech by Larsen in which he shared his thoughts on his role in developing the program and the importance of combatives training.

"There are things I want you to think about as you go out," Larsen said. "This isn't just a combatives course; it's not really about learning how to fight. It's a leadership course. It's about leading others to be warriors."

Larsen spoke briefly about the history of the development of martial arts and hand-to-hand combat techniques and how the training originated in the Air Force in the 1950s under the sponsorship of World War II Army Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay. LeMay began a voluntary Judo training program after the close of World War II.

"The problem was that the training was mostly for people who were self-motivated and came down to train. It became a club," Larsen said. "Combatives training has to be for every Soldier. In a division of 20,000, if you have 100 really tough people, that means you have 19,900 who are untrained.

"It's your duty to take the training back to your units and spread it out," he added. "Integrate it into the training for every Soldier."

Following Larsen's address, Bowyer welcomed the graduates to the Fort Belvoir facility, recognized the Belvoir garrison command team and other national capital region supporters of the combatives program, and highlighted the goals of the training itself.

"I had an opportunity to witness a lot of great training this week," he said. "You guys are very motivated and I wish you all the best. (Combatives training) is a necessary basic Soldier skill and we will continue to instill that Warrior Ethos in all Soldiers."

Bowyer then introduced Ferriter to the graduates and guests and invited the general to share his thoughts on the Army combatives program.

Ferriter began his address by saying that he was a firm believer in working hard, engaging in physical training twice a day, and participating in combatives (rolling) once or twice a week. He also stressed the confidence the newly certified instructors would instill in their fellow Soldiers.

Combatives training is what transforms a Soldier from one who looks back to someone else and points out a possible danger up ahead to a Soldier who says "I'll move forward and take charge," Ferriter said.

"Their first step is always forward," he added of the trained warriors.

According to the graduates receiving their diplomas, the instructor certification course is one of the most challenging physical undertakings in the Army combatives training program.

"It's very rigorous," said graduate Staff Sgt. Robert Sales, U.S. Army Signal School Detachment, Fort Meade. "Every day it's a challenge."

Sales added that the instructor training involved developing mental discipline in addition to physical conditioning.

"You try to train your mind so the tiredness won't show," he said. "Even though you're tired, you still have to fight. You have to push yourself. After the morning sessions, the instructors would challenge us to come back for the afternoon training."

Sales said that in spite of the intense work the certification required, and occasionally having to be on the receiving end of the full contact training to learn what it feels like, the effort was well worth it.

"Would I do it again? Sure," he said. "Now I'm in shape. At any given time, I'll know I'm prepared to handle myself."