Army instructors want advanced Combatives program for Europe-based troops

Combatives instructor Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lopez, background, referees as Pfc. Garrett Sorem, center, and Sgt. Brintun Jones stick-fight during Level II Combatives training at the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy last week.


By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 25, 2010

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — U.S. Army Europe should have its own school to teach Combatives skills if soldiers are to be proficient in hand-to-hand combat, according to Army martial arts instructors in Europe.

Each soldier in the Army is supposed to spend at least 40 hours learning basic hand-to-hand combat, which is available in Europe. Those who want more advanced training also can take another 80 hours of Level II Combatives training in Europe.

But most soldiers who want to gain Level III and IV Combatives certification and the ability to certify other soldiers at Combatives levels I and II must spend a month at Fort Benning’s U.S. Army Combatives School in Georgia.

“Combatives is a Warrior Task,” Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lopez, who runs the Combatives program at the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy in Grafenwöhr. “It is in the Soldier Manual of Common Tasks as a drill you need to be proficient on. If it is going to be an Army standard, it should be Army-wide.”

Lopez would like to see a school created in Germany that would allow soldiers to get Level III and IV certification.

“We have the trainers on station (in Europe),” he said. “The NCO Academy has a lot of the equipment on hand. We just need the approval from Fort Benning to say, ‘yes,’ so it is Army wide and not just a Fort Benning-controlled concept.”

But Matt Larson, a former Army Ranger and Marine who runs the Fort Benning school, said the Combatives program in Europe lags behind U.S. programs. Plus, Larson said, he thinks there should be only one Combatives school in the Army.

“It is very important to have unification,” he said. “My inclination is that it is probably better to send people from the main school at Fort Benning. That way you have one system throughout the Army.”

The large amount of information about mixed martial arts could lead to different fighting systems developing if there were multiple Army Combatives schools, he said.

“We don’t want to have, ‘Here’s the USAREUR style of Combatives and here’s the [Pacific Command] style and here’s the [Northern Command] style,’ ” he said.

Fort Benning is looking at sending more training teams to offer Level III and IV courses to soldiers stationed overseas, something that happens about once-a-year in Europe, Larson said.

“We could definitely do a better job of getting over there more often,” he said.

However, Lopez said the high cost of bringing the mobile training teams, which is paid for by the units requesting the training, means it won’t happen as much as it needs to. He said the instructors from Fort Benning could come to Europe to do quality assurance on any new Combatives school to make sure that it follows the Army program.

First Lt. Ian McCollum, of the 172nd Infantry Brigade, who recently completed Level II training at Grafenwöhr, said he would like to take the Level III course. But it’s asking a lot for soldiers to travel to Fort Benning, he said.

“One of the biggest reasons we don’t have more Level III guys (in the 172nd) is because you have to go to Benning to get it done,” he said. “It’s a $1,000 plane ride, TDY (temporary duty) and you lose the guy for a month.

“Here I can do Level II and limp over to my company area and still get my work done.”

The 172nd is planning its first tournament for late in summer, and officials hope that later events might pit Grafenwöhr–based soldiers against comrades from Schweinfurt. That way a team could be selected for the All-Army Combatives Championships, said Staff Sgt. Brian Davidson, who runs the 172nd’s Combatives program.

There is no USAREUR Combatives championship, he said.

“USAREUR is definitely lagging behind in terms of tournaments,” Davidson said. “At Fort Bragg (where Davidson was previously stationed) there were tournaments every couple of months trying to find guys to go to brigade-level contests.”





Sgt. Andrew Robles, left, watches as Pfc. Garrett Sorem, center, shoots Sgt. Brintun Jones with a plastic pellet gun during Level II Combatives training at the 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy last week.

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