“In a life or death situation you need to be able to react instantaneously while under pressure,” said Master Sgt. Tim Welcher, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), lead combatives instructor. “I cannot think of many other skills that require such urgency.”
Today’s Soldiers are expected to perform a large variety of tasks and missions. They range from peace keeping and humanitarian aid to airfield seizure and close quarter combat. The ability for a service member to respond quickly and decisively in the blink of an eye can mean life or death.
After almost two decades of war, the importance of combatives has been made clear and Combatives subsequently added to the U.S. Army’s 40 core warrior tasks.
According to the Modern Army Combatives Program website, “The Army Combatives Program enhances unit combat readiness by building Soldiers’ personal courage, confidence and resiliency as well as their situational responsiveness to close quarters threats in the operational environment.”
MACP is credited with getting its start with 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment in 1995 and spreading through a grass-roots approach across the Army. In our current Army, combatives are a regular but essential part of training, providing life saving techniques to the newest private and the most senior leaders.
In 3rd SFG (A), as you would expect, they take the training to the next level by training under the standards of the Special Operation Combatives Program. SOCP focuses on the tactical aspect of combatives, such as removing an enemy combatant from a vehicle. SOCP also focuses on the appropriate options to take in a close quarters situation, lethal to non-lethal action, fighting in buddy teams. Additionally, service members are taught techniques in unarmed combat, concealed carry and full-team assaults with full combat equipment.
“We focus on weapons retention techniques and the ability to create space from and attacker in order to employ our weapon systems if need be,” explained Welcher.
Additionally, the SOCP courses are taught by Green Berets and civilian contractors with real-world experience and knowledge.
The future of combatives is being shaped by today’s Soldiers based on their needs and experiences.
At the 3rd SFG (A) Combatives Dojo, you won’t find a mixed martial arts or Ultimate Fighting Championship-style ring. The training and environment uses a real-world approach.
“In my facility … you see a huge padded four-room shoot house with a catwalk, a simulated fast rope, a windowless SUV, and airsoft weapons,” described Welcher.
The combatives dojo gives the feel and appearance of what Soldiers may encounter while deployed. Additionally, the students are taught and held accountable for the repercussions of their actions. Using lethal force when not necessary could affect the relationships with the local people or lead to Soldiers facing legal punishment.
“Some of the advanced SOCP courses incorporate the use of sports psychologists and heart rate monitors in order to provide students with physiological and biometric feedback on how their body handles the effects of stress and adrenaline,” Welcher explained.
Combatives is not something you can learn and be good at in a one-week course, Welcher stressed. The training needs to be continuous and consistently advancing to new levels and techniques to enable the Soldier to react quickly and appropriately to the situation.
“More importantly, they need to continue to conduct training. The benefit of having life-saving, self-defense skills cannot be emphasized enough. Understand that a one week course is not enough to gain proficiency,” said Welcher.