FORT BRAGG, N.C. (April 30, 2012) -- Instructors from the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School were introduced to the art of blacksmithing, Feb. 25, at Fort Bragg, N.C.
The training was coordinated by Col. B. Ashton Naylor, commander of the 1st Special Warfare Training Group (Airborne), or 1st SWTG(A), at the Special Warfare Center and School, known as SWCS.
"This is a morale-building exercise for the instructors here in the Training Group," Naylor said. Instructors within the 1st SWTG(A) are assigned to one of its seven subordinate battalions, which manage qualification and advanced-skill courses for Army special-operations Soldiers.
The blacksmithing class was led by representatives from RMJ Tactical, a Tennessee-based tomahawk and knife company, who demonstrated the skills necessary to making tactical weapons such as tomahawks and knives.
"I'm a blacksmith, and I know that these guys are master blacksmiths," Naylor said. "It's always good to have an instructor come teach as a master."
Naylor said his interested in knife-making as a hobby began during a previous deployment to Iraq.
"If one of our tomahawks can aide one Soldier in coming home safe and whole, our company mission has been achieved," said Ryan Johnson, president of RMJ Tactical, who led the event.
During the two-day visit, Johnson taught proper heating, forging, and grinding techniques of making tomahawks and knives from metal files.
Starting with an ordinary piece of metal similar to a metal file, he heated it in a propane kiln until it became bright orange from the heat, at which point it was ready to be molded. He then forged the metal until it reached 1,500-degrees and carefully transferred it to an awaiting anvil where the hammering process began. After several rotations between the heating and hammering, what was once a metal file became less and less recognizable.
After hours of heating and hammering, the metal took shape; the blacksmiths then heated the blade again then allowed it to quickly cool to relieve the stress. The final step was to sharpen the blade with a grinder and attach a wooden handle.
"It's kind of like occupational therapy", Naylor said, noting his enjoyment for the craft. He makes about 60 knives a year, but doesn't keep them for himself.
"I've sold a few, but I like giving them away to Soldiers," he said.
Naylor said that once he trains his unit's instructors, they will in turn train their students to make tactical weapons.
"Like forging a warrior's spear, they're out here forging blades-tools of war," he said.
Naylor plans to hold a "hammer-in" event for his instructors each quarter.
"It's good therapy for my instructors," he said. "It shows that the command and leadership is concerned about them just as much as they are for our students."