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Photo by Lance Cpl. Shane Suzuki

Non-lethal training gives Marines the edge

23 May 2005 | Lance Cpl. Shane Suzuki

Survival. When war is broken down to its basic elements, survival is the most basic of them all. Stay alive and stay in the fight. Marines are taught survival skills from the day they step on the yellow footprints at recruit training. Whether it’s being mentally strong enough to withstand a drill instructor, being able to place a round accurately 500 yards away or being physically fit for combat, survival is a skill taught and embraced by the Marine Corps.

It’s these survival skills the Marine Corps is always looking to improve on and expand.

Twelve Marines, police and service members took part in a weeklong class May 23 – 27 to test a new, non-lethal combat style championed by many in law enforcement called Controlled F.O.R.C.E.

Led by chief instructors Anthony Grano and Don Roberts, the class spent five days at the Camp Geiger Marine Corps Martial Arts Program “mat room,” learning 14 different techniques and tactics giving them all level two-classification in Controlled F.O.R.C.E. According to their website, this classification allows the students to handle surprise attacks and transition to control tactics.

“In today’s war, more is being asked of Marines than ever before,” said Grano. “They are dealing with more civilians and with more scrutiny than before. We are teaching our students how to control themselves and their situations – how to gauge the correct use of force.”

According to Roberts, Marines are spending more time engaging in policing actions, while being watched by media and local populations who are judging the United States by military conduct in combat zones.

“Our Marines, they are being asked to be the defender, aggressor and protector all at the same time,” said Roberts. “It’s a new war being fought, and we are teaching the techniques that will be successful in this war.”

It’s this new style of warfare that the Marines are preparing for and winning overseas - being able to switch from warrior to humanitarian and back.

“In this time of the "three block war," a commander must have all assets at his disposal to quickly and efficiently take care of any problem that may arise,” said Staff Sgt. David Smith, non-lethal weapons instructor at the Special Operations Training Group. “You can go from combat patrols right into a humanitarian operation or do them concurrently and we need non-lethal [training] as a force multiplier.”

The training is fast paced and interactive, which leads to a 100 percent retention rate, claim the instructors. What the students learn one day is used the next, and the next and the next, so if a student didn’t completely understand a move the first time, they will by the end of the week, said Roberts.

A basic tenant of Controlled F.O.R.C.E. is the ability to react to constantly changing conditions, and that no matter how well trained somebody is in a martial art, all holds and moves will fail sometimes. According to Grano, what the force program provides is the confidence to adapt and make a situation right.

“Confidence is huge and it’s not subject to size or gender,” said Grano. “We teach our students they can survive anything and to never give up. When things don’t work we give them the confidence and skills to adapt and win.”

Beginning with the basics of movement and working with your hands, the program looks to build warriors from the “hands up.” The program stresses anyone can hurt someone, but not everyone is capable of moving someone.  If you stand toe-to-toe with an aggressor, you are more likely than not going to get hit, if you continue to move, even though your technique may not be perfect, you have a better chance to minimizing the initial attack, said Smith.

“The one thing about the training that makes it so good is that is it easily taught,” said Smith. “There are no complicated technique names or manipulations that are too intricate to get into. Once you place you hands on the subject, all techniques are done without even letting go of the person.”