FORT BRAGG, NC – “In a life or death situation you need to be able to react instantaneously while under pressure,” said Master Sgt. Tim, 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 peacekeeping 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, Army leadership recognizes the importance of combatives and has made it one of the Army’s 40 core warrior tasks.
According to the Modern Army Combatives Program, combatives training “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.”
The 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment is credited with initially developing MACP in 1995, and the program spread through a grassroots approach across the Army. In the current Army, combatives are a regular and essential part of training, providing life saving techniques for everyone from the newest private to a senior NCO.
The Soldiers of 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) take their combatives 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 actions to take in a close quarters situation, lethal to non-lethal action, and fighting in buddy teams. Additionally, Soldiers 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,” the master sergeant explained.
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 Special Forces Group (Airborne) 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,” Tim described.
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 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,” Tim explained.
Combatives is not something one can become proficient at in a one-week course, he 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,” he said.
(Editor’s note: Due to the mission of Special Forces Soldiers, full names of members of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) are not releasable.)