Photos by Lance Cpl. Robert Medina and MC1 Timothy Hall
USS BOXER, At sea (April 8, 2009) -- From a room blocked off by curtains and boards in the gloomy, lower parts of USS Boxer (LHD-4), came yelling, pounding and the noises of someone beating on barrels. Not one person was allowed in for two hours until the next group’s transition into the ‘secret room’.
With a sigh of relief and grim memories of the ‘secret room’ behind them, 27 students from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit proudly graduated the Marine Corps Martial-Arts Instructors Course aboard USS Boxer April 8.
The course was 15 training days which included 10 hours of training every day. Course requirements allow no students to miss more than two days. Three instructor trainers’ used all the time they could to push the Marines toward their breaking points.
Gunnery Sgt. Juan Ynfante, an instructor trainer and communications security manager with 13th MEU said everyday was harder than the previous; pushing them to and past their limits brought mental stress to the students as well, which is part of combat conditioning.
“Although the course is both physically and mentally challenging, it has gotten me more into a combat mindset,” explained Sgt. Gabrielle G. Reynoso of Nampa, Idaho, a student in the course and switching chief with 13th MEU.
Instructor trainers’ goal while coaching students is to improve techniques, skills, and endurance. In turn, this improves their mental character and combat mindset.
Students spent 18 to 25 hours in a classroom environment learning how to be an instructor, taking quizzes, and having one-on-one weekly counseling with the instructor trainers. Marines spent the remaining time drenched in sweat during physical conditioning, which weaved Marine Corps Martial-Arts Program (MCMAP) skills into multiple squad building exercises.
Physical training was the easy part—the instructor trainers stressed on pushing these Marines to learn control and be able to stay in the fight, said Ynfante, a Mathis, Texas native.
“The hardest part for the Marines is combat cohesion,” he said, when speaking on events that occurred in the ‘secret room’.
Not one of the Marines gave up after spending two hours expending all their energy as they fought to survive the combat cohesion events—an exclusive rite-of-passage which all instructors-to-be must experience.
Even though combat cohesion was tough, Reynoso said it was her favorite part and brought her squad closer together.
“Marines will take what they’ve learned in this course and be able to teach their Marines how to effectively use MCMAP as a weapon of last resort,” she said.