ABOARD USS KEARSARGE -- As many Marines and sailors of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) continue operations ashore throughout the Central Command theater, those who maintain the MEU's "force in readiness" status aboard ship are active daily in training to keep them mentally and physically fit.
One example of this is the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. There are currently 36 Marines from Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment engaged in this intense program as they prepare for their gray belt test. The gray belt is the second of five belts a Marine can achieve in the MCMAP program.
The Marine Corps Martial Arts program began in October of 2000 and has since become ingrained in the warrior ethos of the Marine Corps. The program is designed around the three pillars of mental, physical and character development.
Aboard USS Kearsarge, lead instructor Staff Sgt. William D. Sudbrock, with Weapons Company, BLT 2/8, does his best to teach his class while they train aggressively in a small opening on the hangar deck of the ship.
The limited space aboard ship is a major challenge, Sudbrock said. Since the program includes extensive throws and grappling techniques, much of the student's time is spent on the ground.
At Camp Lejeune, large grassy or sandy areas are used for training. The cement-type non-skid surfaces found throughout the ship however, make it necessary to confine the training to three large wrestling mats.
Sudbrock said due to that limited space, he breaks the group into smaller ones and uses a lot of round-robin rotations. This gives everyone the opportunity to practice their skills on the mats under the direct supervision of Sudbrock and other instructors, he said.
From a time perspective, he said it is easier to accomplish the required training aboard ship because of the captive audience and extra time available for training.
"There is more time in the evening hours than in the rear since the Marines don't secure at the end of the day. We also don't have a lot weapons shoots when we are on ship," Sudbrock said.
In the rear, he may get in one or two classes a week, but on ship, the Marines train every day except Sunday, he said. His favorite part of the training is when the flight schedule allows the Marines the time to train on the flight deck. "You get a nice ocean breeze and have the Harriers as a backdrop," he said.
The Marines usually train for two hours a day and have been at it for the last three weeks. Their next step in the program is the gray belt test scheduled in the coming days.
The Marines and sailors of the 26th MEU (SOC) are embarked aboard the ships of the Kearsarge Strike Group in the northern Arabian Gulf conducting distributed operations in the region while serving as the strategic reserve for Central Command.
For more information about the 26th MEU (SOC), log on to www.usmc.mil/26thmeu.