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Cpl. Cody Leifheit (left) shoves Sgt. Alex Kessell, trying to throw him off balance during a pugil stick sparring match Jan. 20 behind the Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 headquarters building during the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course.

Photo by Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

Marines pushed to limit to become MCMAP instructors

22 Jan 2010 | Cpl. Monica C. Erickson

Cheers and war cries resonated behind Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, as Marines donned protective gear, picked up their pugil sticks and charged each other in one-on-one sparring matches as part of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Course Jan. 20.

The three-week course started with 23 Marines, but has since dwindled to 17 hard-chargers, due to injuries and involuntary drops. The remaining few refuse to give up their chance at earning a prestigious MCMAP instructor ‘tab.’

In the beginning of the course, the Marines were introduced to their ‘buddies’– long, thick, heavy wooden planks – which have to be carried everywhere they go. The Marines are also not allowed to remove their flak jackets during the training, which is scheduled to end Jan. 29 in a graduation ceremony in building 1707.

Cpl. Jason Tovar, a MCMAP pupil with Engineer Company, MWSS-374, said he wanted to become a MCMAP instructor to become a better Marine.

“I want to be able to train my Marines, be a mentor to my Marines and feel a sense of accomplishment when I am done,” said the San Antonio native. “This class is definitely a challenge, and not everybody could finish it. It takes a lot of heart to get through this.”

Throughout the three weeks, the Marines will learn every move from tan to green belt, and will learn how to teach it to others. In between learning martial arts, the Marines are being physically and mentally challenged through deployment drills, landing zone drills, combat conditioning and strength exercise. They also compete in a lot of sparring, which includes ground fighting, standing and pugil sticks.

By this time, these Marines are so emotionally and physically drained they no longer worry about what is going to happen, they can only focus on the now, said Sgt. Mark Green, the chief instructor trainer for the course. “It is no longer a sense of completing something I ask of them, now they puff their chests up and are proud when they complete a task before them.”

On Friday, the Marines will take part in what some believe to be the hardest part of the training, the Combat Cohesion Exercise and the Battle Course.

“The CCX is the unspoken rite of passage to becoming a martial arts instructor,” Green said. “All I can say is it forces the Marines to come together. The only way they will survive it is to work together.”

To give the Marines a quick rest, the MCMAP instructors hold informal classes on warrior studies, where they learn of historic warriors such as the Spartans and Medal of Honor recipients.

“I know these Marines will become stellar instructors and they have earned everything,” Green said. “I only ask they don’t give it away, because I didn’t just give it to them – they had to earn it.”


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