Author Archives: Kirby

One Mind, Any Weapon: Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructors Course

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DISCLAIMER- A firm grasp of the following is essential for this article to be properly understood: The course decribed is an Instructor’s Course, i.e. it qualifies you as an instructor. THERE IS NO BELT LEVEL ATTACHED TO THIS! It is commonly refered to as a “green belt instructor course” only because %99.999 of the Marine Corps (MAI’s excluded) are too retarded to understand the previous few sentences. Now that that’s out of the way…proceed…

Ask anyone who’s been to Thailand recently about Marines’ skill at bar fighting and usually you get the same response.

“Couple of Jaeger-Bombs into the night and that Jack-ass went and picked on some little 110lb Thai kid at the bar. Thai kid ended up kneeing that Devil Dog’s teeth clear to the back of his head after giving him 5 or so dead leg kicks.” Priceless!

When I think of Marines and our ability to, shall we say stretch the truth, I am forever amazed at the magnitude of those who fancy themselves to have PhD in “Bad-assery” and think that they can fight with anyone and win by knockout. It would seem that by sheer Osmosis they have gained an undefeated professional fighting career simply by watching all 900 UFCs at the local TGI Friday. I wish I was making that up.

Flash scene to Parris Island and the fog draped bricks of Leatherneck Square where I experienced my MAI Course back in 2008. Standing at this building and staring at the large black and red flag that reads, “One Mind Any Weapon,” it becomes abundantly clear that something intense is about to happen. You’d be right, because your first opportunity to prove your worth is to take a PFT and score no lower than a first class. Sounds easy. Just remember that there are as many different places to take an MAI course as there are units in the Marine Corps. Each unit has its own PFT and some of them are just flat out awful in every way.

There are three distinct portions of the Martial Arts Instructors Course. Mental, Physical and Character discipline. Each of these partners with the Marine Corps core values and provides for what we lovingly know to be the synergy of MCMAP. We learn that there are five  belt levels (Tan, Grey, Green, Brown, and Black) followed by two instructor levels (MAI and MAIT). One must be a Green Belt to qualify as an instructor or a Black Belt 1st Degree (after having first qualified as any level instructor) to become an MAIT. On your long road to becoming an MAI you will begin by learning the history of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. Where we all came from as Martial Artists, the evolution of Marine Corps fighting programs of many shapes as sizes, and where we are now within the program itself.

Let’s get into the techniques, shall we? Of course we shall. This comprises the Physical Discipline of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. Anything you can do with your hands, feet, elbows, knees, knife, and other weapon of your choosing is a part of the Physical Discipline. At a minimum you’re already a grey belt (second level of five ) so that by the time you graduate you’ll be brought up to the Green Belt (third level). You’ll earn all of your credited hours toward Green Belt throughout the course. If you happen to be higher than Grey when you show up you will simply leave at whatever belt you came but now you’ll have an instructor’s certification to wear. Remember my disclaimer? Of course you do. You’re not retarded.

Grappling, body sparring and free sparring drills are within the physical discipline of MCMAP. You must engage one of your IT’s first, but then you will move on to fighting each and every one of your students. Sometimes you’ll engage one fight out of ten, other times you’ll fight the entire class one right after another. The point is to get you into the midset of engaging different opponents. You will learn to identify weakness and strength in certain areas and exploit them each accordingly. Grappling takes place on the ground, body sparring is standing with punches to the body only, and free sparring is standing with punches, kicks, elbows and knees. They are each punishing in their own way. Bcoming comfortable within all three is absolutely neccesary to be a great instructor.

The Mental Discipline of MCMAP is taught in the classroom. So wherever you take the course you will eventually be given student materials and have to read quite a bit. We learn basics of Anatomy and Physiology, nutrition, wellness, and a smattering of administrative topics. You must study the actual methods of instruction. We use a unique type of instruction called “EDIP” which appeals to all three different types of learners (audio, visual, tactile). Safeties are mentioned several million times in this portion because, like any form of martial arts, injuries can and do sometimes happen. That is no excuse for not having proper precautions tho. Why make it easy to get hurt right? If you’re hurt you can’t train, and if you can’t train the Thai kid will destoy your lilly ass in Round Two.

Character Discipline is the third portion of the course. Becoming an effective instructor means that you must be of sound character. Consider this: Youve just begun a grappling match with a student. This student has previously taken 10 years of Judo and proceeds to tap you out in under 5 seconds. You have two options. First, you can get rediculously angry and headbut that student directly in his face while kicking him in the shins and leading into what may only be described as a gooch punt. Second, and this is my suggestion, you could congratulate the kid on a great tap and ask him to show you the technique he used. Call the class over to see it also, because it may help them out in their own grappling game. Which of these two options requires more character discipline? The second one right? If you said the first, this article is clearly not for you. Please send me your address so I may dispatch my flying torque wrench weilding monkey’s to your place of residence.

So far everything I’ve mentioned sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Hell yeah it does! But I can hear you asking yourself how it all comes together. I mentioned synergy, therefor something must be working with something else to a mutually advantageous end. Indeed, something is.

There is a wide variety of physical drills you will endure during your course. Some are as short as an hour, some might take the better part of 4-5 hours. Durring this time you will be worked to the point of exhaustion and challenged to witness the depth of your drive and determination. At the end of each of these exercises a topic will be discussed while you are at your physical minimum. We call these, “Tie-ins,” because they tie in with the physical lesson you just completed. It might be suicide prevention, drug abuse, sexual harassment, safety in martial arts or any of a long list of topics. They are designed to make you think deeper about your role as an instructor. You are not just someone who can tell a Marine how to fight. You must SHOW them how to fight. You may very well find yourself, as I have, helping a fellow Marine out of drug addiction. You are many things to many people, and Tie-ins help make you the ideal of what a Marine is and should be.

As we conclude the drills there is one more tool used to round you out as a soon to be Martial Arts Instructor. Warrior Case Studies bring it all home. You will find a warrior, of any branch of service, and study their award citation. The battle itself, and what made it so unique as to merrit an award are a few of the key points to focus on when giving a case study. I’ll tell you now, you’ll feel differently about it after having just finished a physically taxing drill. Nothing helps you understand a Navy Cross Citiation quite like a 7 mile hump thru driving rain, low crawling thru mud with barbed wire overhead, and sparring all the while…voice of experience.

After 21 Days you will be finished. The day before last is your final exam consisting of a Green Belt test, a test over your instruction, and a test over the quality of your tie-ins/warrior case study. After passing all three tests all that remains is for you to graduate on day 21. You will have earned it. Parts of you will hurt like they never have before, but you will be better for it and glad you did it.

The Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is an ever changing institution. As with any art form certain aspects are adapted and molded to fit whatever need be. Please know that I left out some of the details in this article on purpose. First because I don’t want to ruine the surprise, and second because things change so rapidly that what I write now would need to be updated too often to be useful. Take what I have written and use it as a guide to the program in order to further your understanding of MCMAP.

Sergeant Kirby

USMC CBRN School Pep Talk and Schedule

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So there you are, sitting with your family members, amazing them all with stories about how you just graduated boot camp and are about to attend MCT. Just as you finish telling them how you’ll be wearing cammie paint all day and running thru the jungle with your M-16 Crazy Uncle Larry, a former Marine, jumps up spilling his PBR all over the family Cockapoo and screams, “OUTSTANDING! WHAT’S AFTER THAT?!”

Flash scene to Fort Leonard Wood Missouri. It’s an incredibly hard place to find, so hopefully you have transportation via government travel office. If not, get on Google Maps and search for St. Robert, Missouri. This will dump you about 3 miles away from the main gate. But don’t worry; it’s not a small installation, so it’ll be easy to manage from there.

After billeting figures out your room and barracks information you’ll more than likely be put in a holding platoon, referred to as “MAT” platoon. This simply stands for Marines Awaiting Training. Since this is your first experience away from the structure and discipline of Boot Camp/MCT I feel obligated to let you in on some advice for MAT platoon right away.

1)      If anyone offers to tell you how the Marine Corps “really works” or offers ANY legal advice, stay as far away from them as possible and heed none of their smoke and mirrors. Unless they have a blood stripe, or are a Legal Officer I promise you they don’t know the first goddamn thing about the Marine Corps and are only seeking to demotivate you and/or talk themselves up so as to seem cooler than they actually are.

2)      You will do a PROFOUND amount of Police Call and cleaning duties. Don’t let it get you down. Remember, you have nothing better to do until your class picks up, so you might as well help out where needed and the hard truth of it is a lot of times what’s needed is cleaning.

3)      MAT platoon is a great opportunity to do the right thing and rise up as a leader right from day one. It is always easier to start ahead than try to play catch up. That said the best way to earn a meritorious promotion is to start by proving your worth at MAT and keep up the good work in class!

4)      Keep your chin up! Haters gonna hate. It turns out Haters mostly hate successful, leadership oriented, hard charging, motivated Devil Dogs such as you undoubtedly are.  Jokes on them, cause you’re a squad leader or class leader, and they’re still getting NJP’d for underage drinking and fraternization. Not you tho! Class will start soon and the degenerates of MAT platoon will be a long distant memory and easily forgotten at that.

Let’s move on! MAT will be dead, may she rest in unholy hell, and you’ll be enjoying class… and by enjoying I mean trying to stay awake. STAY AWAKE! This is incredibly important information you need for the entire 3 months your class is at school. Remember what I said about staying in the lead and not having to play catch up? Well it still applies. Stand up, drink ice water, drink a cup of coffee, energy drinks are the nutritional equivalent to Napalm so don’t drink them. Feel free to slap yourself in the face. Feel even more free to slap the Marine next to you, who has not heeded my word and fallen asleep, in the FACE! Whatever you do, stay awake.

The first five weeks of class are going to be what you call “A” block. This is actually the information that you will have to teach upon arrival at your first unit. If you don’t pay attention and learn the information you will most assuredly show your ass as soon as you get to your unit. Don’t be that guy. Classes that you will cover are basics over Chemical Weapons of all types, Biological Warfare Agents, and Nuclear weapons history. If you want to be a motivator you should check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. You’ll be tested on your ability to stand up and give a class to a group of people. PRACTICE! Do this either by yourself or within a group. Just know that it’s easier to find your teaching style and voice before you give the class than be a stuttering, blithering, nervous idiot when the times comes cause you didn’t prepare. The CDC Website will have a list of everything you’ll cover in the school on a basic level. Learn it now to save yourself the trouble. Start ahead, right?

Within “A” Block you will have an introductory 2 mile and 4 mile hike thru Ft Leonard Wood. These will be performed in MOPP (chemical protective suit) and during a small portion of the hike you will be wearing your Field Protective Mask. Get used to it. As time goes on there will be two more 6 miles hikes and a final 8 mile hike. They too take place within the MOPP suit including the Field Protective Mask. A great way to get used to the mask and suit is to play video games on the weekend wearing the gear you’ll hike in. Sounds stupid, I know, but I’m dead serious when I tell you it helps. At the end of this and all blocks of instruction you will have a COC operation. This is a little radio based drill that checks to make sure you can actually employ the skills you’ve been taught. You’ll communicate with the instructors and the other squads of students all via radio transmission. As a little hint, when speaking to someone thru a mask over a radio, take the receiver of the radio and hold it firmly against the side of your throat and speak in a NORMAL volume and tone. It’s amazing how much that improves over screaming thru a mask.

Now that you’re sufficiently broken in “B” block starts. This is your hazard prediction block of instruction. Still awake? If not, slap yourself in the face. This is by far the most difficult block of the entire course. It should last about 4 weeks. You will learn all the factors needed to identify possibly contaminated areas following a Chem/Bio/Rad/Nuke attack. It’s very complicated and requires a lot of homework. If you don’t do your homework prepare for the hardest week of PT, classroom, and barracks life imaginable. Just ask my class, they didn’t do their homework (I was a Sgt at the time and knew better than to slack) and they suffered greatly because of it. Good study habits on your part will ensure you stay in the lead. That being said, this block focuses mainly on how to predict the movement of contamination without use of anything other than a Compass, protractor, and a ruler. After you’ve learned this skill, you will be taught a computer program that can do it all for you in the blink of an eye. Of course, this program was written by hacks so it rarely if ever works. But given that nuclear weapons and EMP generating devices can knock out computers in the blink of an eye it is definitely in your best interest to learn it front, back, and side to side in the event a computer isn’t there to do your job for you…and chances are there won’t be one to do it for you anyway.

“C” Block begins with contamination avoidance. Let’s imagine that a weapon discharged in your unit’s area. You know how to plot the hazard from “B” Block. All that’s left now is to actually go out into the great unknown and confirm the actual area of contamination. All this goes to keeping your unit safe and providing the CO with a detailed description of how he may safely move about the battle space. You’ll learn all kinds of detection equipment for everything from Chemical to Radiological contamination. Still awake? If not, slap yourself in the face HARD! This part requires a lot of attention to detail as it will be your job to ensure the gear works before sending it out with your monitor teams. Just like you look over your car before a long trip you will look over gear like your Radiation detector before each use.

Last we have your “D” Block. Even in a seemingly perfect world where everything goes to plan there is bound to be a change somewhere that blows the contamination right back into your face. What happens then? Do we run around waving our arms in the air screaming for Baby Jesus to come save us … I sure hope not. Beside, Baby Jesus has long since gotten the hell out of dodge and is being decontaminated as we speak. You are about to learn how to set up decontamination corridors, how to safely clean all of your gear, and clean your people should the worst happen. It’s not just as simple as taking a shower. There’s a lot to consider like time of day, weather, terrain, runoff, number of people, decon solution to use, and how much time you have to accomplish your CO’s goals and on and on and on. Is your buddy next to you awwake? If not… introduce him to RICK JAMES!

Once you have mastered all these skills you will put it all together in your final exercise. This is a 48 hour drill that employs the most important skills from each block of instruction. It takes place in the field training area after an 8 mile hike. Don’t expect it to be a camping trip. One screw up during the exercise relates to tens, maybe hundreds, of deaths in the real world. Get it down now and you’ll be alright. This is the part where all your COC operations get put into use also. If you developed good communication habits thru your radio and within your teams a lot of headache will be saved. You’ll have radio messages informing you of attacks, have to plot the hazard related, make small hikes thru the areas, use the detection gear, and lastly, set up decontamination for the units affected. By the way, this won’t just happen once. It’ll be a few times and with increasing intensity each time. Be ready, be cool, and be calculated. Don’t let stress make decisions for you.

And now you’re all done! This is it for your CBRN School. You’ll have taken twelve written tests, and least twice as many practical evaluations, and a whole lot of PT while at Fort Leonard Wood. It’s a good time if you keep your ass out of the meat grinder and do what you are supposed to. You’ll make a bunch of friends and hopefully some that’ll be around a while.

I can’t stress the following enough: Our job, soon to be your job also, is one that people don’t think about until the proverbial shit hits the fan. At which point your actions relate directly to how many people die. It’s a job that largely goes unappreciated and is greatly misunderstood by the commanders of almost every unit in the Corps. Keep your nose to the grindstone and tirelessly seek knowledge. Become the world’s reigning authority regarding all things CBRN. Be the one that doesn’t have to be told to do his job. Remember that you’re a part of a very small community within the Marine Corps, so one bad apple really does ruin the bunch. Don’t be the bad apple. Good luck!

Sergeant Kirby, 5711