Spec. Wes Landrum
10th Mountain Division Journalist
Block! Grab and pull! Choke!
These were just some of the many phrases 24 Soldiers shouted as they learned the basics of hand-to-hand combat last week.
Combatives is a week-long course designed to teach Soldiers how to defend themselves in close quarters. Thomas Tehonica, master instructor, said the class is designed to show Soldiers sometimes they don’t need a weapon to defend themselves.
“If you’re conducting operations in the civilian population, you can use this to keep the people away from you,” he said. “It’s a peaceful way of restraining people if you have to.”
Tehonica said the Soldiers learn nerve strikes, joint locking, restrainings and choke holds, take downs and escorting. He said the instructors put the Soldiers through a series of line drills. There are four specific line drills and four specific lessons in each line drill. Each drill points out a different technique.
“In one line, we may show them a Rear Naked Choke,” Tehonica said. “In another line, we may show them sweeps.”
Once Soldiers complete a line, they put their skills to the test in an exercise called Swarm Drill.
Tehonica said the Swarm Drill shows the instructors how much a Soldier has progressed in the course.
“In this drill, we place a Soldier inside a circle and have four guys ‘swarm him,’” Tehonica said. “To pass, the Soldier must demonstrate the different moves he or she has been taught.”
Upon completing the class, the students become certified to teach the course as level one instructors, Tehonica added.
Staff Sgt. William Mayfield, 511th Military Police Company, said the class was very beneficial to him. He said the class offers something for everyone.
“This is a class every NCO needs to attend,” he said. “The stuff taught here everyone needs to know.”
Mayfield said it is up to the NCOs to pass on their knowledge to the younger Soldiers. He said that with the military deployed to all parts of the world, learning hand-to-hand combat can keep a Soldier alive.
“I did two tours of combat duty, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq,” Mayfield said. “I had Soldiers come up to me and ask me questions about what to do if approached by the civilian population.”
“This class teaches you how to use the rules of engagement and when to use force to put the enemy out of action,” he added.
Tehonica said the best thing about the course is that no one fails. Everyone graduates and becomes certified. He said it all boils down to proficiency and muscle memory.
“The first time they learn a move, it’s ‘Step one … Step two…,’” he said. “Then we line them up into two lines, and they practice the move to learn the move through repetition.”
Tehonica compared the process to a baby taking its first step.
“It’s crawl first. Then it’s walk and run,” he said. “Safety always comes first.”
Once those two phases are over, it’s time for the Swarm Drill. He said it’s amazing to see how much a person learns after just one day of the class.
“The students came into the course on the second day,” Tehonica said. “We gathered them into a circle and sent one person into the middle. We then sent people to attack him. The Soldier remembered every move and performed them perfectly.”
Although he is a master in hapkido and jujitsu, Tehonica said the credit for developing the course at the Light Fighters School goes to Division Artillery Command Sgt. Maj. James W. Redmore.
“This course came from Sgt. Maj. Redmore,” Tehonica said. “He designed it.”
“The techniques within the lines program was a system developed for Special Operations Forces at Fort Bragg,” Redmore said. “I took those techniques and developed a program by providing tasks, conditions and standards and some type of physical regimen to go along with that to ensure that not only are Soldiers learning relevant techniques, but they also sustained an acceptable level of physical readiness.”
Redmore said he’s used the program since he was a command sergeant major at the battalion level. He said the techniques assist in building confidence and the warrior ethos that Soldiers need to be successful.
“It provides them relevant techniques for close-quarters battle that they’re facing right now in Iraq,” he said.
“The directive to make the course post-wide came from Gen. (Peter) Schoomaker,” said 1st Sgt. Scott Baughn, Light Fighters School first sergeant, referring to the Army chief of staff.
Baughn said Maj. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum commander, then directed Redmore to come up with a combatives course to teach at Fort Drum. Its goal would be to get Soldiers certified to teach the course back at their respective units. This way, the course would be taught post-wide.
Once the course received the green light, Baughn said Redmore personally validated all the instructors at the Light Fighters School.
Staff Sgt. Benjamin Duiker, an instructor at the school, said the sergeant major still has a hands-on approach when dealing with the course.
“He comes back periodically to make sure we’re still teaching it the way he taught it many years ago,” he said.
Baughn said the course is designed and taught with the Soldiers in mind, because the last place a Soldier wants to end up is on the ground.
“If you end up on the ground, then you’re in a bad way,” he said. “What we’re teaching here keeps you upright and in the fight.”