Soldiers, sailors join tan belt training

10 Jul 2003 | Sgt. Colin Wyers

"Lead-hand punch! Lead-hand punch! Rear-hand punch!"

The instructor walks up and down the line, telling some to flare their heels, others to turn their hips more.

Tan belt courses are common throughout the Marine Corps, whether on ship, at bases and stations, or at the recruit depots.  Even deployed troops, like the command element of the First Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Babylon, Iraq, are working to meet the commandant of the Marine Corps's goal of having all Marines qualified in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program by Oct. 1.

But something about the class at Camp Babylon, which wrapped-up July 16, stands out.

Soldiers and sailors have joined in.

"There's nothing quite like this (in the Army)," said Army Sergeant 1st Class James Barr, member of the 11th Psychological Operations Battalion, and attached to I MEF as a future operations planner.  "We have our specialty schools - air assault, stuff like that.  But this is very good to know."

According to Maj. Kurt Osuch, Training and Education Command martial arts program manager, former Commandant Gen. James L. Jones, who now serves as the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, founded the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program after his experiences with the Republic of Korea Marines.

"Korean Marines would always practice their brand of Tai Kwan Do, which would build unit morale and discipline," Osuch said.  "The commandant wanted to help build Marines of high character and moral discipline."

The tan belt is the first step of the program, designed for recruits in basic training.

"We just teach the fundamentals to new Marines, to get better basis for what we're trying to teach," said Sgt. Richard DeBoy, a course instructor from Salamanca, N.Y.  "We teach basics on how to defend yourself, and safety."

The courses at Babylon are designed to get the training to Marines who graduated from basic training or the Officer Candidate School before the martial arts training became mandatory. However, the classes also have been opened up to interested soldiers and sailors who serve with I MEF.

"Usually, soldiers and sailors who have interest are good students," Osuch said.  "They participate fully and are excited about training like Marines."

They also walk away with a new appreciation for their comrades-in-arms, according to Barr.

"We didn't know each other, and now we have some camaraderie," said Barr.  "Everybody congratulating each other - it's something special, in my mind."

Which, according to Osuch, helps build the reputation of the Marine Corps.

"Everything we do to make their experience good is good for the Marine Corps," Osuch said.  "They'll take that experience back home with them."

It's only a small part of the larger picture, where the Army, Navy and Marine Corps have joined together to help the people in southern Iraq.

"The Marines have been very good to us since I've been here," Barr said.  "I've learned a lot from them, and I really think it helps us integrate in."