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'Combatives' Training Builds Patients' Skills, Confidence

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4, 2006 – Military amputee patients are taking their desire to return to active duty to the mats.

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Jason Keaton, a civilian instructor with the Modern Army Combatives Program from Fort Knox, Ky., watches as Army Staff Sgt. Orlando Gill (top), patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, practices taking control of an opponent. In this case, the opponent is Army Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Greenlee, another program instructor. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Members of the Modern Army Combatives Program from Fort Knox, Ky., have taken their program to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for a two-week stay.

For starters this week, it's about building patients' physical skills and confidence.

Next week, the team will train up to 20 Walter Reed soldiers to be Level 1 instructors of the three-level program, Roger Lemacks, administrator of the U.S. Army Amputee Patient Care Program at WRAMC, said.

Based on the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu form of martial arts, the program will provide "a good activity for them because it's something they can still do to a high level," said Jason Keaton, Combatives civilian instructor. "Close-quarter fighting is definitely part of the training the modern soldier needs."

Keaton was born visually impaired and today is considered legally blind. That hasn't slowed his participation in martial arts. He has been wrestling since age 4, he said.

"A lot of times when you have a disability, people ... think that maybe you can't do something but, of course, you know you can," he said.

The Combatives program is inexpensive to teach and easy to learn, Army Staff Sgt. Eric Hankins, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Fort Knox program, said. It also offers realism.

"The old hand-to-hand combat (training) wasn't really effective," Hankins said. "It looked really good on paper, but you would rarely find yourself in one of those (training scenarios)."

The old methods were taught without full execution of the moves, Keaton said. With the Combatives program, techniques are practiced against a fully resisting opponent.

It's more about technique than size and strength, and gives servicemembers the tools to control a situation, the instructors agreed.

"(We're) trying to teach them how to control their opponent until their buddy comes up with a weapon," Hankins said. Army Sgt. Orlando Gill, a Walter Reed patient, agreed that this skill set is a handy tool to have.

During his second tour in Iraq, Gill was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade while on patrol in Ramadi, resulting in the amputation of his lower right leg. He has been at Walter Reed for 15 months.

"We do missions in the cities, which is close quarters," Gill, said. "If somebody comes up real close, you can't bring up your weapon at times, so you have to go hand to hand. So this training actually does help a lot."

Gill said he hopes to return to Iraq as a medic to continue helping others as he was helped after being injured. His ultimate goal, he added, is to become a physical therapist.

As the Combatives program continues to spread throughout the Army, Keaton gets positive comments about its use. Soldiers returning from the front lines tell him they're glad they had the skills or that they wish they had them.

The training will be especially helpful for the amputees who are able to return to active duty, Keaton said.

"These guys, from working with them, I can tell that they're able to do it, sometimes even better than ... some guys coming in that would have all their limbs," he said.

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Related Sites:
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Modern Army Combatives Program

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Spc. Joseph Kashnow, a lower leg amputee and Walter Reed Army Medical Center patient, gets a lesson in how to take control of an opponent from Army Staff Sgt. John McHugh, a Modern Army Combatives Program instructor. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Staff Sgt. John McHugh, bottom, a Modern Army Combatives Program instructor, fights to regain control of the situation from Army Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Greenlee, another program instructor. The two are part of a team from Fort Knox, Ky., visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center to teach the program to patients and soldiers stationed there. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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