Any soldier will tell you that having combatives training or not can mean the difference between life and death when engaged in a hand-to-hand combat situation.
The 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division public affairs team recently sent over a story about a "Braveheart" combatives competition that was held Feb. 7 between American soldiers and members of the brigade's Iraqi counterparts.
The 3rd HBCT has been deployed to Iraq since last October.
Here is Staff Sgt. Natalie Hedrick's story on the "Braveheart" competition:
"Let’s get ready to rumble"
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ECHO, Iraq – Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and the 4th Battalion, 8th Iraqi Army Division, crawled toward each other in a seven-on-seven “Braveheart” rumble Feb. 7 at FOB Echo.
The goal was to take down the opposing teams “king” using techniques learned in their 10-day level two combatives class. To get to the king, the Soldiers had to fight their way through chokes and take-downs while trying to get their opponents to tap out.
To Private Aqueel, one of the four Iraqi Soldiers going through the class, games like this one are what make learning hand-to-hand combat fun.
“The best part of this class is the fighting,” he said. “It’s not real fighting but it looks real and it can be used in real situations.”
According to Spc. Tyhavis Dennis, Company F, 1-15 Inf. Regt., a typical day begins at 8:00 a.m. with warm-up and rotational exercises followed by a review of moves the students learned the day before.
“When we do the review, if anyone had a problem with any move, we go over that move again,” he said.
Dennis explained when the class reviews a move, two Soldiers demonstrate the move then they are critiqued by the rest of the class.
“We help each other,” he said.
Chatter amongst the class is crucial according to Staff Sgt. Joe Vasquez, an instructor in the course. Each combatives move is taught visually and verbally.
“We do and say the moves because these are the guys that are going to back to their companies and teaching this,” Vasquez explained. “They are going to be the subject matter experts so they have to be able to do the move and explain how they are doing it.”
Aqueel said combatives is not taught in the Iraqi Army so he will going back to his unit to teach his fellow Soldiers.
Vasquez said the quicker they understand a particular move, the quicker they can move on to something else. The students learn between five and 10 moves a day.
Vasquez, who is one of seven level four certified Soldiers in the battalion, explained more goes into learning how to fight. He teaches his students also how to dive, roll, fall, and take a hit.
“We do slaps and punches so they know what contact feels like,” he said. “We also do things like dives and rolls so they know how to land without getting injured. There is a difference between hurt and injured. The Soldiers need to know that.”
Each move, whether it’s fighting or falling, is taught in detailed technique. Dennis explained strength plays little part in properly executing a move. The instructors make sure of that.
“They tire us out by making us do ‘burpies,’” he said. “When we’re done, all we have is technique because we are so tired. It makes us better fighters.”
A burpie is a push-up followed by a quick jump in the air with fingers and arms extended back down to a push-up and repeat.
The class is tough but fun, Vasquez said. In addition to being a common Soldier task, it teaches the students going through a deeper lesson in being a Soldier.
“It builds esprit de corps and a sense of confidence,” he said. “It instills in them the Warrior Ethos and the Soldier’s creed. It makes it true to them.