Deployed Marines Learning Professionalism through MCMAP
US Marine Corps News
By Cpl. Zachary J. Nola, Regimental Combat Team 7
In addition to fighting the Taliban, Marines in southern Afghanistan are fighting to win the confidence and trust of the Afghan populace.
To win this fight the Marines must convince local Afghans their intentions are true and their motives honorable. One method used to prove their commitment to the locals is setting the example of professionalism.
How Marines present themselves, respect each other, respect the laws of war, treat civilians and manage their gear amongst many other things, are professional traits that have separated them for other military forces and one of the many traits distinguishing them from the Taliban.
While there are many ways Marines learn professionalism, including classroom instruction, senior Marine mentoring, peer-to-peer sharing and the study of professional reading material. A small group of Marines here have been learning that professionalism with the aid of arm bars, hip throws and blocking techniques through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
“First of all MCMAP is a mentorship program. So there are several things you are teaching, not just on the physical side, but your also teaching them to be good leaders and be overall good Marines,” said Sgt. Michael Atkins, a MCMAP instructor currently instructing a gray belt course here. “That way they’ll be able to transfer that into real-life situations in the Marine Corps.”
After each set of techniques or manipulations is taught for use in self defense, the program requires instructors to hold a class where both instructor and student have an open discussion that cover topics related to the moves they have learned. The goal is to give the Marines additional guidance about the moves and how to use them.
“You learn multiple things and more than just self defense,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffrey B. Jensen, a forward observer with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. “We covered our core values and it’s very important to go over those. They’re what we live by. They’re what the Marine Corps is all about. Having a constant reminder [of Marine Crops core values] helps us grow.”
These tie-ins, which include leadership, camaraderie, respect and escalation of force, help teach Marines about the appropriate use of MCMAP as well as other professional traits and customs.
“[MCMAP] is not only to help the Marines become physically fit, but also to help mentally prepare them for combat, prepare them for stressful situations and to build their character so when they’re facing situations they know what to do,” said Atkins, a native of Rapid City, S.D.
It is this strengthening of character and decision making that makes holding MCMAP instruction in deployment zones beneficial.
“A lot of the stuff we teach ties into combat stress. Other things include dealing with scenarios like [prisoner of war] handling,” said Atkins. “They’re several practical applications that these Marines may possibly encounter in country. By them getting these classes, it’s going to keep [the material] fresh in their minds and give them guidance on how to be better leaders and how to look for the stress getting to their Marines.”
Any Marine in a combat theater may face the challenge of detaining a prisoner of war. For that reason MCMAP instruction is designed to provide a good balance of teaching Marines how to protect themselves while still practicing appropriate use and escalation-of-force methods.
“We’ve gone over continuum force which is basic [escalation of force],” said 20-year old Jensen from Glen Wood Springs, Colo. “Being in a combat environment it definitely helps to go over EOF because we use it every day.”
“In gray belt, one of the required classes for each Marine to receive a gray belt is continuum of force or escalation of force. We teach them that if someone is just yelling at them but not acting on it then they need to withhold themselves, versus if someone tries to touch them and possibly grab a weapon, then you start moving up that continuum force level,” said Atkins. “We teach responsibility of force, to distinguish between temper and intent. These are all things that fall under MCMAP. [Incorporating MCMAP] moves with how they are responsibly supposed to use them.”
The interaction between Marines and Afghans is becoming common practice in southern Afghanistan, the opportunity for these Marines to have a deep and long-lasting impact on the area increases every day.
The professional attitudes and actions they display help garner trust from civilians, provide a positive role model to local children and instill proficiency in Afghan national security force members.
Some may find it hard to believe, but Marines are building that professionalism on blue gym mats with knife-hand strikes, forward rolls and bayonet techniques.
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