More than 20 Fort Belvoir Soldiers gathered at the Warrior Combative Training Center Monday to continue their training for Tactical Combative Instructor (Level-Four) certification.

Successful completion of the course qualifies participants to train other Soldiers at the unit-level in the Army's Modern Combatives Program.

Having Fort Belvoir chosen to host the certification course is a reflection of the installation's continuing growth as a major hub of military physical training, according to Lt. Col. R. Dwayne Bowyer, Headquarters Battalion commander.

"We have two instructors here from the U.S. Army Combative School at Fort Benning, Ga., as the Mobile Training Team to conduct and certify the training," he said. "This is only the third Level-Four Combative MTT course ever conducted away from USACS at Fort Benning. The other two Level-four MTTs were conducted this past summer at Fort Hood, Texas, and Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Wash."

The Modern Army Combatives Program, created by former Army Ranger Matt Larsen in 2002, was developed to change the existing methodology of physical training so that real combative ability can be expected of every Soldier. The primary goal is to teach practical, realistic training methods and grow self-sustaining combative programs within units and organizations. Hence, the Tactical Combative Instructor Course allows the Army to distribute increasing numbers of trainers throughout the service and make combative ability an integral part of basic and advanced physical training.

"When these Soldiers leave here, they can run their own programs and certify both Basic Combatives and Tactical Combatives, which are Level One and Level Two," said Staff Sgt. James Hanson, Master Combative instructor, Fort Benning USACS MTT. "The Tactical Instructor Course gives Soldiers an in-depth understanding of how to run certain tactical scenarios and base certain programs on units' (specific) training plans -- some units have to train in different ways and the (instructors) get an understanding of how to do that."

Hanson also noted that an important element of the course is to teach combative instructors how to remain flexible in terms of working within the constraints of Soldiers' and units' duty schedules.

"Not everybody is combat armed, but Combatives is for everybody so the instructors can provide any scenario for anybody," he said. "If you have a unit that only has two hours to give, they can do scenarios for those guys for the two hours that fit their job description."

Since the program's inception, Modern Army Combatives training is a central part of the physical training required of every Soldier in the Army.

"Combatives training has been integrated into Basic Training -- each Soldier has to get trained and it's also part of their unit-specific Soldier's Manual of Common Tasks," Hanson said. "Everyone is supposed to do the Modern Army Combatives Program -- it's written in there."

Tactical Instructor (Level-Four) Course participants experience the highest levels of training in the Army's Combatives Program, learning to teach Soldiers the full-spectrum of hand-to-hand combat techniques.

"Back in the day, we had just a bunch of guys grappling," Hanson said. "But now the majority of Level-Three and Level-Four training is in full body armor. Soldiers still grapple, but now they train in boots and full uniforms. They learn handcuffing, vehicle extraction (taking people out of vehicles), and we do a lot of weapons retention training. The program is a lot more combat-specific now. We reinvigorated the program about two years ago to be more tactic-oriented. It's always been tactical combat specific but now that we're doing it in uniforms, the guys are seeing that it works in armor, too and can then apply it."

Soldiers spend nearly three months training to become certified Combative instructors.

"To go from Level-One through Level-Four, they have about three months of doing nothing but fighting on the mat, eight hours a day," Hanson said. "So when they leave they are pretty much subject-matter experts. The next step above this is working at the unit-level Combatives Academy; from there it becomes the Army-level Combatives Academy, which is where we're at."

The Tactical Combative Instructor Course runs through March 1. Graduation ceremonies will be March 2 at the Fort Belvoir Warrior Combative Training Center.