MARANA, Ariz. – The words on the gym wall summed it up best for 13 security forces specialists who trained at the Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site here March 17-21.
“The defining characteristic of a warrior is the willingness to close with the enemy.”
Through the Basic Combative Course taught by Arizona’s Citizen-Soldiers, the men and women who protect the 162nd Wing’s jets, facilities, equipment and its greatest asset – the Airman – learned the essentials of unarmed combat: close the distance, gain the dominant position and finish the fight.
“Our security forces are well-trained in combat arms, but to see them operate in full-contact, close-quarter scenarios, only makes them more mission capable,” said 162nd Wing Vice Commander Lt. Col. Kenneth Rosson, who was able to witness the training, describing it as “a great example of the joint-service mentality we have here in Arizona.”
In what an outside observer could mistake for a Ultimate Fighting Championship or Mixed Martial Arts event, the intense period of instruction covered submission holds, rear naked and cross collar choke holds, escape methods, front and rear mount positions – any kind of technique that neutralizes a threat without weaponry.
For Airman 1st Class Jordan Apalategui, successfully negotiating the course was an exercise in stamina of the body and mind.
“It was brutal, getting owned in wrestling and getting punched – it took its toll,” said Apalategui. “It was mentally and physically draining.”
With M-4 Carbine Rifles, M-9 Berretas, pepper sprays and soon-to-be Taser Guns at their disposal, security forces personnel are well-armed to meet any kind of immediate danger with defensive actions.
But according to Chief Master Sgt. Mark Milbourn, security forces manager, the training was useful in the event a security forces specialist does not have the luxury of a “reactionary gap,” a term used to describe the time it takes to asses a situation and subsequently use a weapon.
“If we don’t have that separation of contact, this training gives Airmen the confidence that if they go hand-to-hand with somebody, they can put them into some kind of submission to where that person is going to give up very quickly,” Milbourn said.
With an extensive background in Taekwondo, Army Sgt. Maj. Mark Ruffe, an operations sergeant major at the Arizona National Guard Joint-Forces Headquarters in Phoenix, served as one of the instructors.
“They (security forces) were impressive – every one of them, and they showed a lot of heart,” he said.
Ruffe added that 162nd Wing Security Forces personnel have joined the likes of Navy SEAL[s], Drug Enforcement Administration agents and personal bodyguards of government officials in receiving this type of unarmed, combat instruction.
“I took away from this training a new sense of confidence, skills and knowledge about myself and how much I can actually take and push myself to survive any type of hostile situation,” said Senior Airman Jessica Switzer, security forces specialist. “I love my firearms, but hand-to-hand combat is always going to be a vital role in defending myself.”