Thursday, December 04, 2008

US Special Forces develop "functional combatives program for operators, support elements"

1ST Special Forces Group (Airborne) develops functional combatives program for operators, support elements

SOC combatives technique

A 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldier (top) executes a move called the “S position” during a “Defanging the Serpent” combatives-training session in the Group’s combatives pit at Fort Lewis, Wash. Feb. 1. “Defanging the Serpent” is the unit’s internally-developed, combat-tested combatives program. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Kosterman/1st SFG (A) PAO)

FORT LEWIS, Wash. (Courtesy of 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) Public Affairs Office, Feb. 8, 2008) – For Special Forces Soldiers, there are a few things that are just part of everyday life: shooting, airborne operations, studying foreign languages and cultures, teaching foreign soldiers and combat-focused combatives training.
The techniques of the current Modern Army Combatives Program are essentially mixed-martial arts techniques that are certainly effective in individual cagefights and tournaments.  However, these techniques may not be the best available for actual combat situations where Soldiers wear full battle kit.   A full kit usually includes a helmet, body armor, weapons and tools. 

It was with this in mind that leaders within the unit began using their own experiences and knowledge to develop a fighting program called “Defanging the Serpent.”

“About 6 years ago (at 1st SFG’s 1st Battalion in Okinawa), then-Lt. Col. Wendt came to me about developing a combatives program,” said Chief Warrant Officer Maurice K. Duclos, co-founder of the program.   “Together, in 2002, we came up with 30 standard moves that were learned by the entire 1st battalion.”

After developing the initial program with Wendt, Duclos set out to continue to improve the system.

“I was thinking, ‘what did we miss, what could we have done better,’” Duclos said.  “Based on operational experiences and feedback, I started to come up with a plan to make what we have better.”

“We started out with 30 good moves, but they were “martial arty” and didn’t necessarily pertain to our job,” Duclos said. 
In 2006, Duclos was tasked again by Wendt to develop another system that could be used by all the Soldiers of the 1st SFG.  By this time, Wendt had been promoted to colonel and is the current commander of the Group.

The current program has a much better developed strategy and does not require students to learn a lengthy series of moves, said Duclos.

“In developing this program, we wanted to stick to ‘most likely to happen’ scenarios and moves that are high-percentage payoff,” Duclos explained.

Wendt agreed, saying the moves in the updated program are more likely to be used by Soldiers conducting operations.

“We want Soldiers trained in combatives techniques that work in confusing combat situations,” said Wendt.  “Cage fighters are very tough individuals with great techniques for that venue, but we are not training our Soldiers to be cage fighters in a one-on-one match or tournament.”

He further explained that 1st SFG Soldiers work “through, by and with” the populations of countries when deployed.

“Because we operate in these situations, it is important to know highly effective techniques in a system designed specifically for these combat
situations,” Wendt explained.  “’Defanging the Serpent’ is a system that can be used by Soldiers who are wearing their full battle kit in situations that require different levels of lethality against single or multiple opponents.  In other words, it is a system designed precisely for what our Soldiers face when deployed.”

His thoughts were shared by more junior members of the unit.

“I love the command emphasis on combatives in Special Forces,” said Pfc. Shawn M. Carson, a support Solider in the Group, and one of the graduates of the first-ever 1st Special Forces Group combatives instructor course.  “I feel much more confident.”

Carson, who wrestles in a Seattle-based club during his off time, compared the current Army program to the unit’s.

“The Modern Army Combatives program pales in comparison to what we got here (in 1st SFG),” Carson said.  “This system is all about preparing Soldiers for real combat situations instead of cagefighting.  There is no comparison.”

Wendt added his own thoughts, saying that he is very pleased with the ‘Defanging the Serpent’ program. 

“Our Soldiers are further developing the ability to either diffuse an operational situation with a small amount of force, or escalate the amount of force to be used as required, up to and including how to close with and subdue or destroy the enemy,” said Wendt.  “Fully combat-functional combatives training of this type is time well spent.”

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