ABOARD USS PELELIU (LHA 5), (Sept. 5, 2008) --
The Marines of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been working hard lately, refining their hand-to-hand combat skills and solidifying combat readiness in the hangar bay of USS Peleliu (LHA 5).
The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, designed to turn hands and legs into instruments of war, is unique to the Marine Corps, combining tactics from several fighting styles and grounded in the ethos of Honor, Courage and Commitment, according to Sgt. Nicolas A. Magallanes, a MCMAP instructor with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-165, 15th MEU. Basically, every learned skill and every aching muscle translates into a better rounded Marine, said Magallanes.
“All Marines have Honor, Courage and Commitment. The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program has core values of its own, which is the Synergy,” said Magallanes. “[MCMAP teaches] the character discipline, the physical discipline and the mental discipline.”
The honor codes of the Marine Corps in general and those of Marine Corps Martial Arts are mutually dependent on the other, according to Magallanes. The basic values inherent in all Marines are sharpened and refined by the values instilled through MCMAP; the basis of and driving force behind MCMAP are the values of Honor, Courage and Commitment, continued Magallanes.
Along with the basic skills and techniques learned in MCMAP, Marines learn the value of teamwork by pushing themselves to achieve, according to Magallanes. The dependence on the Marine to the left and right instills a mindset that carries over past the classroom and into day-to-day operations, Magallanes said.
“Our whole intent is to develop the small team unity, the small unit leadership, where you put a [junior Marine] in charge of a whole squad,” said Magallanes, a native of Lubbock, Texas. “Sometimes, those junior Marines are in charge of captains, majors, gunnery sergeants, master sergeants, first sergeants, [because] they’re the class leaders and squad leaders. We develop the small unit leadership.”
Marine Corps Martial Arts instructors train for years to earn the privilege of passing on their specialized knowledge of hand-to-hand combat, according to Magallanes. The hard work and dedication required to earn the title of MCMAP instructor causes instructors to push their students to the limits of physical and mental endurance, Magallanes said.
“I’m very demanding. Put forth that full effort because if you can put forth that full effort in a small environment like this you’ll always do it, and it will stay with you wherever you go,” said Magallanes. “Don’t ever stay satisfied with where you’re at and continue to progress.”
Marine Corps Martial Arts is a physically strenuous and tactically demanding skill which builds Marines into efficient fighters. For Marines training in MCMAP classes, the aches and pains of training is worth the reward of professional development, according to Staff Sgt. Richard M. Verduzco, Training Chief with the Command Element. The higher a Marine goes in Marine Corps Martial Arts, the more they can do during their careers, Verduzco said.
“It’s all for personal benefit and personal gain as a Marine and as a unit overall. It looks better over all on paper and in black and white when you’re competing for promotion and it gives you a little bit of an edge,” said Verduzco. “When we get back [after deployment], it’s business as usual, so if you get a chance to advance yourself, take advantage of it,” continued Verduzco, a native of Brawley, Calif.
Aside from career advancement and ability to overcome day-to-day challenges, MCMAP gives Marines a stronger mindset and determination to accomplish goals and face any challenge, according to Verduzco. The physical toughness gives Marines the ability to overcome physical obstacles, but the real value of Marine Corps Martial Arts is the moral fiber built during training, Verduzco said.
“Yes, you have to be physically strong and fit. But as Marines, if you don’t have the courage and fortitude to follow through with something, it’s like having a loaded gun that you can’t shoot,” said Verduzco.
The physical movement and techniques that allow Marines to handle a threat in hand-to-hand combat is an outward sign of a trained warrior. The physical skills, initially taught during recruit training, are only half of the determining factors that make Marines trained martial artists, according to Lance Cpl Richard J. Pratt, an Assaultman with Weapons Platoon, Golf Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/5.
“You can overcome anything with mental toughness. Your body will follow what your mind says to do,” said Pratt. “As far as combat conditioning goes, you’re tired, you don’t want to do it any more, but when you get everyone together, you have one guy who helps everyone else stay motivated. For those guys who don’t have the exact same physical toughness as the guys next to them, the guy with the most mental toughness will be able to share that and keep everyone going.”
Also, with time on ship between ports, MCMAP training builds on the operational capabilities of the Marines aboard USS Peleliu, according to Pratt. Continuing to build on the ability to disarm and diminish enemy threats with unarmed combat is of importance to all Marines, Pratt said.
“You aren’t always going to have an M-16 with you. If your M-16 malfunctions or you’re out of ammo and there are tons of enemy around, you have to be ready to take them down any way you can, and MCMAP shows you how to do that,” said Pratt, a native of Atkinson, Ill.
With combat operations always a possibility while underway and during future deployments, it is important for Marines to continually prepare themselves to take on the enemy, Pratt continued.
“While we’re sitting around now, we can always get called up, and who is to say that the next deployment won’t be a combat deployment?” said Pratt. “[MCMAP] helps us get ready for whatever comes next.”
The Camp Pendleton, Calif. based 15th MEU is comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and Sailors and is a forward deployed force in readiness capable of conducting numerous operations, such as Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations, Humanitarian Assistance Operations and a wide range of amphibious missions. The 15th MEU is currently deployed aboard the USS Peleliu (LHA-5), USS Dubuque (LPD-8) and USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52).