FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Sept. 6, 2012) -- Soldiers train on a daily basis to face combat, and when that combat is measured in inches, it's Army combatives that can mean the difference between success and failure on the battlefield.

"Combatives prepare Soldiers for combat on multiple levels," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Massey, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Chemical Brigade combatives instructor. "It teaches them techniques to use when they can't use their weapons, but more important, it teaches them to overcome their fears when faced with combat situations, whether that fear is hand-to-hand fighting, a firefight or just entering the unknown."

Recently, 31 Soldiers from across the installation in a variety of jobs and units came together for 3rd Chemical Brigade's Level II Combatives Training. With Massey as their chief instructor, the group spent two weeks developing the skills necessary for them to become Level II instructors in their respective units.

"We take Soldiers with Level I skills -- the basic take downs, some grappling, holds and submission holds -- and elevate their skills to Level II with additional holds, punches, kicks and leg techniques. When they graduate, they can go back to their unit and help instruct combatives," said Capt. Jason Gramling, 3rd Chem. Bde. training officer.

"In Level II instruction, there are a lot more questions and answers," Gramling said. "Rather than 'do this,' Level II training explains why we do things a certain way."

Despite the kicks, slaps, punches to the face and body slams by the
aggressor, students worked through the distractions to subdue the subject -- the objective of the combatives.

"It's all a matter of technique," Gramling said. "We use a round-robin approach, so that after awhile even the most physically fit person will tire, so then it really boils down to who uses the techniques the best. Size may matter at first, but later, it becomes all about technique."

For Johnathan Lucero, 509th Route Clearance Company, 5th Engineer Battalion, the two-week course was a step up from his initial combatives training.

"It's definitely a lot more physical. There's a lot more strikes and punches coming at you at this level," he said.

Lucero wrestled for 12 years at a variety of levels, and said that combatives was a great workout, but it was a better confidence builder.

"If you can do this, you know you can overcome a lot," he said.

For another class member, Sgt. Marvin Scott, Company A, 84th Chemical Battalion, the training was also a good way to meet new friends.

"You come to a class like this, you can't help but enjoy the camaraderie," said Scott, who at 46 was the oldest member of the class.

As most of the jabs were in the combative training, a few friendly verbal jabs were flying as well.

Sgt. 1st Class Rosa Trujillo, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, held an ice pack to her forehead after taking a quick punch to the face earlier, but it was the good natured ribbing from her classmates that she now had to endure.

"I'm getting married on Saturday. I just hope this doesn't leave too big of a mark," she said with a grin.

The class schedule was moved to allow Trujillo and other Soldiers from Company D to attend, as the unit was on a cycle break from training Basic Combat Training.

"You take this training and you build on it every day," said Staff Sgt. Jessica Fatheree, Co. D, 2-10th Inf. Bn. "I'm here because I wanted to better myself and be able to teach these skills to my Soldiers. Combatives definitely make you stronger -- mentally and physically."

To sign up for the next combatives course, contact Staff Sgt. Christopher Massey at Level I classes are held monthly and Level II classes are scheduled on a quarterly basis. The brigade hosts open mat time two nights per week and Saturday mornings. The evening dates vary, contact Massey for more information.

(Editor's note: Robert Johnson is the managing editor of the Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. newspaper, the Guidon.)