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Members of the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa conducted a class for combatives instruction at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, June 26 - 30, 2017. The weeklong course will train approximately 30 Soldiers to be instructors for first-level hand-to-hand combat. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond)

Members of the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa conducted a class for combatives instruction at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, June 26 – 30, 2017. The weeklong course will train approximately 30 Soldiers to be instructors for first-level hand-to-hand combat. (Image courtesy of U.S. Air National Guard, Tech. Sgt. Andria Allmond/Released)

U.S. Army Spc. Rodney Drew’s body slapped down hard on the padded floor, reverberating throughout the room. Sparring with U.S. Army Pfc. Kurt Sikes, both Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment deployed with the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), heisted and heaved one another, alternating control with each movement.

Approximately a dozen Soldiers of the Arkansas National Guard’s 1-153rd grappled with white-knuckled concentration during the Basic Combatives Instructor Course here, June 26 – 30.

According to the website featuring the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, based at Fort Benning, Ga., the mission of the U.S. Army Combatives Course is training close quarters combatives – a term for hand-to-hand combat training and techniques – to instill the warrior ethos, preparing Soldiers to close and defeat enemies.

“Now, when these Soldiers go out, they’ll be able to help train others and be more combat ready,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Bryan Snow, who is field artillery with the 1-153rd and a combatives instructor. “When you’re in combat and don’t have your weapon right away, there are still ways to defend yourself.”

The mission of CJTF-HOA is to work with international partners in countering violent extremist organizations, while also being prepared to protect U.S. military, diplomatic and civilian personnel, facilities and interests. A primary way of executing this mission is by conducting exercises to maintain readiness and evaluate U.S. forces – CJTF-HOA service members embody this through participation in the combatives course.

“We have members that may [forward deploy] to other areas where they have an opportunity to train other U.S. or [partner nations],” said Snow. “Being trained to be instructors, they can go step-by-step to teach someone how to do these maneuvers. That helps bolster any defensive force.”

And training others is just what Soldiers like Drew said he intends to do with the new skillset.

“Our unit sends us here to get more people qualified,” he said. “Then we can go back and teach the rest.”

The 40-hour course tests participants from varying physical fitness levels, experiences and backgrounds. Snow stated that endurance and mental intensity – not solely physical strength – are paramount in successful hand-to-hand combat.

“In the last class we had, the smallest guy earned [the title, ‘Honor Graduate’], because we had a tournament and he beat everyone,” Snow said. “A small guy can take a big guy down.”

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brad Zamora, an assistant U.S. Army Basic Combatives, also called Level 1 Combatives, instructor with the 1-153rd, reinforced Snow’s statement regarding mental toughness.

“Obviously, it helps to have physical strength and cardio, “said Zamora. “But it’s like chess; there is a mental part that requires inner strength and intelligence to complete this course.”

The Modern Army Combatives Program started in 1995 with the 2nd Ranger Battalion. It has been incorporated into the new TC 3-25.150, the Army Ground Fighting Techniques publication, and Basic Combatives is one of the Forty Warrior Core Tasks of the Warrior Ethos initiative.

“What we’re teaching here is a will to win, a will to finish the fight and never quit — never surrender,” said Zamora.

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