USS CARTER HALL, AT SEA (Oct 21, 2010) -- Their fatigued bodies scurry around the mat as they perform punch after punch. With each repetition, the instructor reminds them to practice good technique in order to effectively take down their simulated opponents. After the grueling session, the Marines aboard USS Carter Hall form a group circle to learn about values revered by the few and the proud.
This is not some Kung Fu or Karate class. It is a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP) session, an essential part of being a Marine.
The importance these Marine leaders place in MCMAP shows in the hours spent aboard the ship learning and rehearsing the techniques, building the combat mindset, and immersing themselves in Marine Corps history and customs.
"We hold one hour MCMAP sessions Monday through Friday," said Staff Sgt. Anthony A. Joens, maintenance chief and MCMAP instructor with Company L, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. "We mainly teach the idea of combat mindset but we also teach basic Marine Corps knowledge and Marine Corps history like Medal of Honor winners.
"Like any other tool, if we do not use it, it will get rusty. So our job is to continually sustain and maintain proficiency in MCMAP," said Jones, adding that the curriculum includes non-lethal tactics, such as unarmed take-downs and joint manipulations.
MCMAP uses a colored belt system similar to civilian martial arts systems to indicate training and proficiency. While a major goal of MCMAP is for all Marines to master the techniques, doing so leads to the individual goal of moving up to the next belt level for Marines like Lance Cpl. Nathan R. Borja, an Amphibious Assault Vehicle crewman with Company L, BLT 3/8.
"It is good to learn hand-to-hand combat techniques just in case we are ever in that situation," said Borja. "We learn things we would not usually learn in any other martial arts programs like how to do movements with our combat gear."
Marines aboard USS Carter Hall utilize the "dojo.” The "dojo" has the space and MCMAP-specific gear not available in the ship gym. Punching pads, boxing gloves, simulated weapons, weights, and thick mats allow Marines to perform all the techniques, whether at the basic tan-belt level or the expert black-belt level.
"The dojo is awesome," said Borja. "I like working out in there because we can do a lot of things in there that you cannot do in the gym."
Sustainment training for BLT 3/8 Marines is constant as they operate in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility and prepare to face any and every situation that may be thrown their way.
As the Marines file one-by-one up the ladder that leads out of the "dojo" they take with them the lessons, bruises, aches and pains of a rough session, and leave only the sweat purged by the physically exhausting and mentally stimulating course.