Soldiers show combat skills
GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — Soldiers learning hand-to-hand combat skills at Grafenwöhr’s 7th Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy withstood a barrage of kicks and strikes with rattan sticks Friday morning.
The troops had endured attacks from their comrades and an instructor during a Army Combatives Level II course at the academy over the past two weeks, but this time their assailants were fourth-graders from Grafenwöhr Elementary School.
The youngsters lacked the power and skill of the soldiers but made up for it with enthusiasm as they rained stick strikes on a pair of 18th Combat Service Support Battalion soldiers — Sgt. Andres Robles, 26, of Houston, and Sgt. Brintun Jones, 27, of Opelika, Ala.
The pair were wearing padded suits and helmets that helped them sustain the blows but eventually the youngsters brought Robles to the ground, swarming on top of him before helping him to his feet.
The kids watched Robles and Jones grapple and spar with the sticks, then practiced somersaults and kicked pads held by the martial-arts students.
“Hiyah,” shouted Cassidy Delaney, 10, as she aimed a kick at a pad held by another martial-arts student, 1st Lt. Ian McCollum, 27, of Camarillo, Calif.
“This is a great opportunity for the kids,” McCollum said. “I wish I had had an introduction to practical, realistic martial arts as a child.”
Staff Sgt. Michael Lopez, 36, of San Antonio, who teaches combatives at the academy, said the schoolchildren’s visit was a chance to show them some of the more exciting things their parents do at work.
“It kind of builds up their respect and confidence in their parents,” he said. “Hopefully they get more respect toward their parents and more appreciation for military service.”
The martial-arts display was also a chance to teach children to stand up to bullies at school, he said.
“With all the bullying that is going on and all the cyber bullying, this is a great way to introduce kids to self-defense as long as they use it for self-defense and not as a bullying tactic,” he said.