Realistic combatives training is a key exercise for soldiers

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Wolf Operations Group, a National Guard Bureau training unit stationed at Muscatatuck Urban Training Center (MUTC), spent two weeks recently training in combatives for soldiers, cadre and students from the National Guard Patriot Academy, a high school located on MUTC.

The United States Army Combatives Program has adapted to integrate the most current techniques.

Now, Level 1 is the Basic Combatives Course that includes post, frame, hook and employing secondary weapons (pistol or bayonet).

Level 2 is the Tactical Combatives Course; Level 3 is the Basic Combatives Instructor Course; Level 4 is the Tactical Combatives Instructor Course.

Capt. Elias Donker, with Wolf Operations, had a promising career fighting in the mixed martial arts octagon until he put it on hold to concentrate on his military career.

He is responsible for the Level 2 Tactical Combatives training coming to Wolf Ops, and invited personnel from the Patriot Academy to train alongside his soldiers.

"Our job at Wolf Ops is to coordinate and conduct training for any element that comes to the facility," Donker said. "This means that we need to be trained up in all aspects of training possibilities from military to civilian, and weapons to hand-to-hand."

Wolf Ops has to see training not just in single vignettes, but as a whole. One event must flow seamlessly into another and, at times, that means being experts in several different skill sets during a single exercise.

"We have to prepare students for the possibility that after they enter a building, no matter how good they are, they could end up in hand-to-hand combat," Donker said. "Our guys are being certified on Level 2 today so that they can instruct at the beginner’s level and know what they’re talking about."

The training was also seen as a way to bring young soldiers from the Patriot Academy up to a level of training that will allow them to be the future trainers.

Every soldier in the Army is required to go through 40-hours of training, which awards a basic Level 1 in combatives. Level 2 training introduces students to more advanced techniques as well as re-stressing the importance of the Level 1 basics.

Using combatives during an exercise while everybody is "in the zone" is a new way of following the vignette through to its natural conclusion, according to Donker.

"The training encompasses everything and we have to be prepared to run realistic scenarios while being safe," he noted.

For the students to receive their certification in Level 2 Combatives, Wolf Ops brought in John Renken, director of combatives at Fort Campbell, Ky., to run the final testing phase.

Renken is an avid proponent of combatives being a basic skill on which all others can be built around for the Army.

"The first thing is that it adds the Warrior Ethos," Renken said.

"I think it’s foundational to everything else we do in the Army. Because we do combatives, we shoot better, we run farther, we run faster, we can lift more weight, and we can do our missions more effectively."

Renken also sees how combatives helps in the big picture of total Army tasks as well as in a person’s outlook on the world.

Sgt. Crystal Hempstead, assistant platoon sergeant for the 3rd Platoon at the National Guard Patriot Academy, passed her testing phase of Level 2 combatives with flying colors, even while training with men much bigger than 120 pounds, proving that size really can be overcome by using combatives.

"This is practical training, realistic training, and good combat training," Hempstead said. "There was a lot of weight difference between myself and a lot of my classmates, but that makes the training even more realistic."

Hempstead is preparing to depart for Army Drill Instructor School.