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Video: U.S. Army Rangers in Combative Training

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In 2001, Matt Larsen, then a Sergeant First Class, established the United States Army Combatives School at Fort Benning. Students are taught techniques from the 2002 and 2009 versions of FM 3-25.150 (Combatives), also written by Larsen.

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The aim of the regiment is to teach soldiers how to train rather than attempting to give them the perfect techniques for any given situation. The main idea is that all real ability is developed after the initial training and only if training becomes routine.

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The initial techniques are simply a learning metaphor useful for teaching more important concepts, such as dominating an opponent with superior body position during ground grappling or how to control someone during clinch fighting.

They are taught as small, easily repeatable drills, in which practitioners could learn multiple related techniques rapidly. For example, Drill One teaches several techniques: escaping blows, maintaining the mount, escaping the mount, maintaining the guard, passing the guard, assuming side control, maintaining side control, preventing and assuming the mount. The drill can be completed in less than a minute and can be done repeatedly with varying levels of resistance to maximize training benefits.

New soldiers begin their Combatives training on day three of Initial Military Training, at the same time that they are first issued their rifle. The training begins with learning to maintain control of your weapon in a fight.

Soldiers are then taught how to gain control of a potential enemy at the farthest possible range in order to maintain their tactical flexibility, what the tactical options are and how to implement them.

Larsen founded US Army Combatives School in 2001 in building 69 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

After years of developing the elite 75th Ranger Regiment’s hand to hand program, he was assigned to the Ranger Training Brigade, the Combatives proponent at the time, to rewrite the Field Manual FM 21-150. Upon finishing this, it was published in 2002 as FM 3-25.150 (Combatives). He was asked by the 11th Infantry Regiment (a TRADOC unit) to develop a training course for their cadre. Advocacy for the Combatives doctrine was transferred to the 11th Infantry Regiment to follow him.

An old, disused warehouse in Fort Benning, Georgia became the site of the school. Soon, units from around the Army were sending Soldiers to this course. Over the next several years, the program was developed around the idea of building virtually self-sustaining Combatives programs within units by training cadres of instructors indigenous to each unit. With the continued success of this approach, the school became the recognized source of instruction for the entire US Army.

The United States Army Ranger School is an intense 61-day combat leadership course oriented toward small-unit tactics. It has been called the “toughest combat course in the world” and “is the most physically and mentally demanding leadership school the Army has to offer”.

It is open to soldiers (commissioned officer, warrant officer, or enlisted), sailors, airmen, and Marines in the US Armed Forces, as well as allied military students. Ranger School training has a basic scenario: the flourishing drug and terrorist operations of the enemy forces, the “Aragon Liberation Front,” must be stopped. To do so, the Rangers will take the fight to their territory, the rough terrain surrounding Fort Benning, the mountains of northern Georgia, and the swamps and coast of Florida. Ranger students are given a clear mission, but they determine how to best execute it.

The purpose of the course is learning to soldier as a combat leader while enduring the great mental and psychological stresses and physical fatigue of combat; the Ranger Instructors (RIs) – also known as Lane Graders – create and cultivate such a physical and mental environment.

The course primarily comprises field craft instruction; students plan and execute daily patrolling, perform reconnaissance, ambushes, and raids against dispersed targets, followed by stealthy movement to a new patrol base to plan the next mission. Ranger students conduct about 20 hours of training per day, while consuming two or fewer meals daily totaling about 2,200 calories (9,200 kJ), with an average of 3.5 hours of sleep a day.

Students sleep more before a parachute jump for safety considerations. Ranger students typically wear and carry some 65–90 pounds (29–41 kg) of weapons, equipment, and training ammunition while patrolling more than 200 miles (320 km) throughout the course.

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