Story by Bernard Little on 09/19/2019By Bernard S. Little
WRNMMC Command Communications
Create space. Maintain space. Close the distance. Gain a dominant position. Finish the fight.
These are just a few combatives goals that Army Staff Sgt. Michael Hernandez, master combatives instructor at Walter Reed Bethesda, takes to the mat to provide a hands-on approach to teaching his students, who include service members from WRB, the Uniformed Services University and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Combatives involves hand-to-hand training and techniques designed to enhance unit combat readiness by building personal courage, confidence, resiliency, and situational responsiveness to close-quarters threats in the operational environment, Hernandez explained.
A respiratory therapist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Hernandez completed Level I combatives training in 2014 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, where he served as a combat medic attached to an infantry unit. He completed Level II training at WRNMMC.
Soon thereafter, Troop Command at Walter Reed Bethesda lost its master combatives instructors to other assignments, and Hernandez was recommended to fill the job.
"Overall, I just like the ability to use what I know and what I've been taught to help others," said Hernandez, who hails from Maryland's Eastern Shore. This sentiment applies to his job as a respiratory therapist, as well as hitting the mats teaching his students combatives techniques, which could someday help to save their lives.
He describes combatives as "one of the pinnacles and crucial embodiments of what being in the military is all about. Hand-to-hand combat is always a possibility. Even if we have a weapon, we need to be able to know what to do if our weapon doesn't work or if we're unable to pull the trigger. I think this [training] bridges that gap in which we get people comfortable with grappling and close-quarters combat. In addition, it's an excellent way to stay in shape. It's a great skill that no one can take from you."
In addition to Hernandez, Army Cpl. Kelly Palmer also instructs combatives.
"We have a Level I and a Level II course every quarter," Hernandez furthered. The Level I course lasts one week, while Level II training is two weeks. Hernandez said there are no pre-requisites to take the training, and that he highly recommends all service members, regardless of rank and age, take at least the Level I course, which provides a basic understanding of combatives. He said service members can get information concerning enrolling in the training from Troop Command's Training Room. He said service members should be ready for physical activity for the training.
Army Spcs. Lamario Fluitt and Raijuenea Baron, both animal care specialists at USU, agreed that combatives training does provide "a good workout" while enhancing their personal defense skills. "You can take the moves and techniques you're taught and apply them in a real-life crisis scenario," said Fluitt. They both described Hernandez and Palmer as extremely helpful and patience while teaching them the various combatives skills and techniques.
Another student, Army Spc. Yusufu Ssali, of Troop Command's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, said he feels combatives is essential to good soldiering, providing the necessary skills to react in hand-to-hand combat situations, and "how to be ready to protect yourself from an enemy."