Friday, September 24, 2010

Fighting the Good Fight

I’m still plowing through this Army officer course at “Relaxin’ Jackson”! The weeks seem to fly by. I guess that means I’m enjoying the program, more or less. Certainly the weather's been great, and we get weekends off.  I already mentioned my excellent thirty-six classmates. About half of them are Active Duty Army, whereas the rest of us (including me) come from the National Guard or Army Reserve.  As officers, no matter the branch, we should know how to fight.

On Monday we received instruction on effective written and verbal communication. You might think that a 40-something academic already mastered this topic, but I always learn something new. (Whether or not I opt to apply this knowledge is a different question, though.) The key to my learning this time around was an excellent instructor, the best one in this program so far. He’s a retired command sergeant major in his mid fifties and has served in the Pentagon. His voice, speaking ability, gestures, overall body language, and ability to connect with the class make him a superb teacher in my book. Moreover, he knew his stuff. One of the writing techniques he focused on was the active voice. I smiled in my heart as he explained the passive voice and reasons it should be avoided—or better yet, reasons students should avoid it :) I don’t downgrade my students’ papers for using the passive voice, but I certainly bring it to their attention and try to explain why it’s stylistically inferior. We had the same instructor on Friday as well; he went over leadership and successfully presented the subject as an open forum for discussion rather than as a “block of instruction” proper.

The highlight of the week was combatives. On Tuesday and Wednesday the cadre instructed the class on fighting positions and various ways to subdue an opponent. We grappled, fought, and tried to dominate or choke out each other seemingly nonstop. Everyone got tuckered out after the first day! Apart from a few bruises on my biceps, and my neck feeling as if someone were still chocking me the next day, I came through unscathed. Punching and kicking were off limits; otherwise, more of my classmates would have gone to sick call and the injuries would have been more extensive. The cadre, consisting of three captains, also sought to “motivate” us with a series of strenuous drills. They had us rolling around on the gym mats looking like epileptics and possessed souls. Bless their hearts! Actually, I enjoyed the whole thing. A few classmates didn’t fare so well, however, as one of them injured a knee, another a shoulder, and a third a hip; they had to get a “profile” (Army speak for a note from the doctor).

This week marks the third time I’ve had combatives training. I think I got more out of it here than I did at Fort Leonard Wood and Fort Huachuca. Chalk it up to great instructors who took the time not merely to watch us fight or even fight us but provided tips while we were in the throes of grappling. “Break his guard!” “Try to shrimp out with your left leg!” The only thing I didn’t hear in this week’s training is the background and philosophy behind Army combatives. It’s my understanding that the Army bases combatives largely on Brazilian jujitsu, with some insights from ultimate fighting thrown in for good measure. In part, this fighting style, largely redistricted to the ground, is about eliminating space between you and your opponent so as not to give him or her any opening or opportunities to exploit to your disadvantage.

I had my one social outing for the week on Wednesday evening. Seven of us dudes met up at Eric’s San Jose Mexican Restaurant. The food and prices were worth the drive. While solitude is often my best friend, for good or ill, it’s good to have other friends once in a while as well, especially when they come from different parts of the country. I appreciate the diverse perspectives and backgrounds of my classmates.