USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC/JC-20) -- About half of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa command element here is comprised of Marines from 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C. Currently making a ship their home and command and control headquarters, one might think the confines of an approximately 600 ft. ship would limit and maybe even exclude various training options.
Not so for these motivated Marines. They kicked off the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program here Feb. 9.
"No doubt, we have limited facilities here, but as Marines we are taught to adapt and overcome," said Chief Warrant Officer Bobby E. Carter, CJTF-HOA executive officer to the commander of troops and MCMAP gray belt. "Training will not stop for us because, we must complete all requirements as directed."
According to Sgt. Sefk V. Alexander, COT team leader and MCMAP green belt instructor, training knives, punching bags, and pugil sticks were brought aboard by CJTF-HOA. The gear was donated by Headquarters Battalion, S-3, 2d Marine Division, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Special operations forces in Djibouti also donated makeshift training mats when they were informed of the training.
The martial arts program, which was approved by former Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones approximately four years ago, teaches Marines grappling skills, chokes, joint manipulations and counters or defensive maneuvers, just to name a few.
"Our goal is to make sure all of the Marines out here are at least tan belt qualified, but we have the ability to test up to the gray belt level," said Alexander, native of North Augusta, S.C. "After our required training is finished, we will open up the classes to the other services aboard ship."
The instructors are eager about teaching the program and plan to do so for as long as they are able to.
"Our plans are to continue the training for as long as possible," said Carter. "It all depends on the tempo of the mission."
The participating Marines are enthusiastic about learning as well.
"I think this was a very good idea to start this type of training especially while we are aboard the ship and on our way to do a job," said Sgt. Barry Raper, acting J-5 plans chief and native of Little Town, Ind. "Given the mission of CJTF-HOA, I think the close-combat skills we are learning will help a lot in a real life situation."
For those who choose to participate, there is a lot to gain from this training.
"Anyone who wants to come up and train will become more physically fit and mentally prepared for combat situations," said Alexander. "This program will also make them a lot more confident in their fighting abilities which is very important with the mission of CJTF-HOA."