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Lt. Col. Jody Hicks taps out Tuesday, letting 2nd Lt. Christopher Casper know that he can ease up on his choke hold during "combatives" training at Mannheim, Germany.
Lt. Col. Jody Hicks taps out Tuesday, letting 2nd Lt. Christopher Casper know that he can ease up on his choke hold during "combatives" training at Mannheim, Germany. (Steve Mraz / S&S)
Lt. Col. Jody Hicks taps out Tuesday, letting 2nd Lt. Christopher Casper know that he can ease up on his choke hold during "combatives" training at Mannheim, Germany.
Lt. Col. Jody Hicks taps out Tuesday, letting 2nd Lt. Christopher Casper know that he can ease up on his choke hold during "combatives" training at Mannheim, Germany. (Steve Mraz / S&S)
A soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Aviation Regiment attempts to subdue instructor Steve Van Fleet during a "combatives" training session on Tuesday.
A soldier with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Aviation Regiment attempts to subdue instructor Steve Van Fleet during a "combatives" training session on Tuesday. (Steve Mraz / S&S)
Instructors Christine and Steve Van Fleet act out a fight scenario.
Instructors Christine and Steve Van Fleet act out a fight scenario. (Steve Mraz / S&S)

MANNHEIM, Germany — They didn’t have adrenaline-pumping intro music.

They weren’t battling in a caged ring.

However, they were slapped into submission holds that had them tapping out, much like the Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts that have risen to popularity in recent years.

Sixteen soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Aviation Regiment engaged in “combatives” training Tuesday morning on Coleman Barracks in Mannheim.

The training, which is conducted by a husband-and-wife pair of professional fighters, employs many of the same moves seen in UFC fights. It is part of an Army guideline to give soldiers hand-to-hand combat know-how for the global war on terrorism.

For nearly two months, the battalion’s troops have spent their Tuesday mornings learning a variety of chokeholds, takedowns and finishing moves. The goal is to be able to subdue enemies by using only their bodies.

The practical application of such training would call for a soldier to contain an enemy so his wrists could be zip-tied and he could be brought in for questioning.

To prepare for such a situation, instructors Steve and Christine Van Fleet, both of whom have fought in UFC-type matches, had the soldiers pair off and attempt to get away from each other.

As the troops grasped at each other’s BDUs, Steve Van Fleet outlined what the enemy would do in that circumstance.

“They’re more than likely going to try to get away so they can get to their supply of IEDs (improvised explosive device) to blow you up another day,” he said. “That’s the type of person you’re going to be fighting.”

The hand-to-hand combat training is incorporated into the unit’s physical training regimen. An hour of wrestling, grappling and writhing around on mats ensures a total body workout.

“When these guys get done with a session of theirs, they’ve probably used more muscle groups than a regular PT session,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Keith A. Baughman of the 200th Theater Distribution Brigade.

In late August, Steve Van Fleet will conduct a course that will train 20 soldiers from the brigade to serve as combatives instructors. The newly trained instructors will then be able to train more soldiers.

Sgt. 1st Class Dermot Thomas is all for the training.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “You can get your cardio going with this. It builds confidence, too.”

Pair keeps fighting in the family

MANNHEIM, Germany — The wedding vows “to have and to hold” mean more to Steve and Christine Van Fleet than most couples.

The husband-and-wife duo have competed as professional fighters in Ultimate Fighting Championship-type events around the United States.

Now they are training U.S. soldiers in Germany to subdue enemies with the same sort of moves popularized by the UFC.

And the soldiers are getting the training from one of their own. Christine Van Fleet is a second lieutenant with the 72nd Signal Battalion in Mannheim.

Her cheery exterior masks a fierce inner warrior who has taken out opponents in less than a minute. She boasts seven wins in her nine professional fights.

You would not want to meet her in a dark alley or, for that matter, on a wrestling mat at 7 a.m. inside a warehouse on Mannheim’s Coleman Barracks.

“I gotta tell you, she’s pretty dangerous,” said Master Sgt. Hollie Robinson with the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Aviation Regiment.

During training Tuesday, Christine Van Fleet strapped on a pair of boxing gloves while soldiers attempted one-by-one to get her to the ground. She probably embarrassed a few of the male troops by keeping them at bay, but everyone was all smiles at the end of the hour-long training.

“It gives them a lot more confidence,” Christine Van Fleet said. “It’s giving them confidence behind the M-16.”

The methods and maneuvers — including headlocks, chokeholds, escape moves and body positioning — taught by the Van Fleets are definitely tried and true.

“We teach combatives and a lot of things that work for us in our own fights,” said Steve Van Fleet.

— Steve Mraz

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