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Combatives training now has home at JBSA-Randolph

| Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs | Oct. 4, 2016

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas — Kimura and Americana submission holds are often seen in mixed martial arts matches, but now they’re also commonplace in Hangar 52 at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

That is where 902nd Security Forces Squadron members engage in combatives training, learning submission holds, choke holds, arm bars and other self-defense techniques that help them subdue aggressors without resorting to lethal force.

Developed by Headquarters Air Force Security Forces Center at JBSA-Lackland, combatives training – once optional and now mandatory for Air Force security forces – boosts members’ confidence and creates healthy competition, said Tech. Sgt. Johnathan Kuenzli, 902nd SFS Combat Arms NCO in charge.

“When we match up a 130-pound female against a 200-pound male and she is able to subdue him and receive a ‘go’ on every final exam, you can see her confidence rise immensely and this is what we have seen in all of our Airmen,” he said. “This is especially beneficial for those Airmen who have never been in a fight or have never been put into such a stressful situation. We also add a competitive spirit to the training by having a ‘King of the Ring’ competition and a ‘Top Performer’ award.”

Previously, active-duty and civilian 902nd SFS members had to travel to JBSA-Lackland for combatives training. However, that commute ended this year with the construction of a combatives room in Hangar 52, the 902nd SFS Combat Arms and Mobility headquarters.

“We built it from the ground up,” said Staff Sgt. Homero Carrillo, 902nd SFS combat arms instructor. “Members of the combat arms section did the work. It took about three weeks to build.”

Designed by Master Sgt. Joseph Hamilton, a combatives training instructor who previously served as 902nd SFS Combat Arms superintendent, the combatives room is a 30-by-30-foot protective cage with vinyl-coated chain-link fencing, padded support posts and a thick gym mat.

The room would have cost about five times more had the combat arms instructors not handled the project themselves, Kuenzli said.

“We did all the work during our down time,” he said.

Equipment is an important part of the combatives room, Carrillo said. Punching dummies play a prominent role in training.

“We ordered dummies to add more to the training,” he said. “It makes them want to work a little more because they’re not punching the air. We want them to use their hands to de-escalate a situation. If you don’t have the training, all you have are Tasers and guns.”

Combatives training takes three days, Kuenzli said.

“The first day is standing drills – the use of punches, kicks, elbows and knees,” he said. “We also teach the five different dominant and nondominant positions.”

The second day consists of a refresher from the first day and concludes with teaching escapes from each dominant and nondominant position, Kuenzli said. The third day starts with a refresher, moves into teaching submissions and culminates in a final drill encompassing everything the students have learned.

The final drill, which provides the most realistic scenario possible, Kuenzli said, is the student’s evaluation.

“Students are required to wear full duty gear and survive an encounter with a suspect for a minimum of two minutes,” he said. “Their two minutes do not begin until they can successfully get a call for help over the radio. If they do not receive a ‘go’ for their scenario, they are given a second opportunity. If at that time they still are unable to receive a ‘go,’ they must return to the training and refresh on any skill or position they are lacking.”

Combatives training is strenuous, Carrillo said, and results in its share of bumps and bruises.

“This is a workout like no other,” he said. “You’re sore for two weeks. We’ve even had members with fractured ribs and a dislocated thumb.”
LeeAnn Hunt, 902nd SFS Visitor Control Center clerk, said the training benefits her in her position.

“As a member of the Visitor Control Center, I come into contact with all visitors wanting to access the base,” she said. “I conduct a lot of criminal history checks and, in some cases, the individual I am checking has a warrant out for their arrest. You never know when a person can become violent, so I am glad to have received combatives training.”

Female-to-male training provided Hunt with one of her greatest challenges.

“There are always more males than females when it comes to training, but it also helps me to take things into a better perspective and to challenge myself more to keep up with them,” she said.

Senior Airman Timothy Hobson, 902nd SFS head of police services, also said the training is beneficial.

“I benefited from this training because I gained a deeper understanding of how to properly defend myself and it helps with my current assignment because I am confident in responding to any situation,” he said.

Instructors for combatives training take an initial five-day course at the security forces center for level 1 certification, said Staff Sgt. Matthew Cummings, 902nd SFS security forces trainer. The next two levels of certification require a week of training each, while level 4 certification takes 16 days.

“The combatives training is a great tool that can be used to simulate a realistic fight for your life situation,” he said. “As an instructor I am able to see the mistakes that students make and adopt different ways to teach new students to ensure they are not making the same mistakes.”

Most 902nd SFS members have now taken combatives training at their new home, but will be required to repeat it periodically, Carrillo said. Each three-day session is limited to 10-12 students.

The combatives room, which can also be used for physical training sessions and other purposes, is a boon to the squadron.

“I think the combatives room is a great tool for defenders to add to their toolkit,” Kuenzli said. “You never know when you might have to wrestle someone off you; it could be the difference between life and death.”