SALINAS, Chile -- Conducting international training exchanges is nothing new for the instructor trainers of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. Matching skills with equally adept warriors from partner nations, however, is a rarity.
The MCMAP trainers are an augmented detachment of Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 24, currently participating in Partnership of the Americas 2007. Their mission is to evaluate the close combat trainer program of the Chilean Infanteria de Armada, or Marine Corps, here in central Chile, as they did previously in Brazil and Argentina.
Chile’s program, called Cuerpo a Cuerpo, or literally “body to body”, celebrates 50 years of its existence this year, and is considered one of the most thorough programs among the world’s military services. Sgt. Andrew Kelly, a native of Fort Myers, Fla., and an instructor trainer with the Instructor Battalion at the Basic School in Quantico, Va., has been quite impressed with the Chileans' training.
"It's a well-structured program," he said. "They demonstrate good aggression. Having the six months to train helps, and the profiency is definitely there."
The Chilean Marines are led by Cabo (Cpl.) Mahowski, instructor at the Naval School and head of the program. Prior to his 10 years of running the program, Mahowski was already a first degree black belt with 12 years of training in Judo. That background is evident in the style he likes to employ, as he throws his trainees to the mat in a vast variety of ways.
“I like how it’s not a sport for the Marines,” said Mahowski. “Everything is taught towards combat. We like to learn new techniques and new methods.”
“It’s a subject matter exchange,” explained Capt. Jason T. Ford of San Ramon, Calif., the Deputy Director of MCMAP. “We provide as much assistance as they want, and try to get over the language barrier. Because Chile has such a well-developed program, we’re just here to exchange.”
Sgt. Shane Lavalette of Lawrence, Kan., has been an instructor trainer of close combat in the Marine Corps for seven years, earning his green belt under the previous Close Combat Instructor program. He has trained with at least a dozen other military forces, and calls the Chilean program the cream of the crop.
"This has been the best we've seen," he said. "They've been around since 1957, and they've even incorporated some of the Marine Corps methods since some of their instructors have served tours with us."
"They incorporate combat conditioning as well," added Lavalette. "They're pretty intense, and they really get in there and bang."