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CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq - First Lieutenant Dana Sanford, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment's motor transport section assistant officer-in-charge, knocks down Petty Officer 3rd Class Iridious Ruise, the battalion's preventive medicine technician, while demonstrating a technique during a martial arts training session here July 29. The 24-year-old Sterling, Mass. native is a green belt instructor in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, and is currently teaching several Marines and sailors in his unit self-defense.

Photo by Cpl Mike Escobar

Ninjas at dawn, docs by day: Mass. Marine trains next generation of warrior-corpsmen

7 Aug 2005 | Cpl. Mike Escobar

The scuffling of booted feet on a rocky dirt field and the echoes of “move, block, strike, strike” broke the stillness of an otherwise silent morning aboard 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment’s camp as a group of figures practiced choking, punching and kicking one another down. This was part of the training one Sterling, Mass., native believes will greatly benefit these Sailors. First Lt. Dana Sanford is responsible for instructing his battalion’s medical aid station personnel and chaplain in the form of hand-to-hand combat, known as the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. “I really enjoy teaching MCMAP, especially because a lot of these guys are into it and really want to learn,” explained the 24-year-old green belt instructor, who also serves as his battalion’s motor transport section’s assistant officer-in-charge. “I’m teaching these Navy personnel the tan belt portion of the program, which is an introduction to all of the basic moves.” The Corps began implementing the MCMAP training system, which draws from several established martial arts styles, in October 2000. There are five levels of ascending martial arts proficiency a practitioner can attain, signified by different belt colors: tan, gray, green, brown and six degrees of black. At the green belt level, Marines like Sanford may train to earn a tan stripe on their belts, denoting them as an instructor. “Since the wars broke out, (MCMAP training) has unfortunately taken a back seat to a lot of other training,” explained Sanford, who first learned about coaching while teaching at Jeff Clark’s Hockey Concepts private hockey camp during his high school years at Wachusett Regional. “For the relatively few people who are able to instruct, like me, it’s good to keep the program active.” While his unit conducts counter-insurgency operations in and around Fallujah, the 2003 University of Massachusetts-Amherst graduate keeps this Marine martial arts legacy alive. “I’ve done tan and gray belt-level work with my guys at Motor ‘T’,” Sanford stated. “I also plan to do gray belt training with these guys (BAS docs) later on.” For now, Sanford focuses his efforts on teaching naval personnel self-defense basics. Their tan belt training covers maneuvers such as punching and kicking, proper fighting stances, basic knife fighting techniques, and escape from choke holds. “It’s an introduction to all of the categories you can learn later on at more advanced belt levels,” he added. His unit’s corpsmen and chaplain trained for one hour every morning for two weeks to earn their tan belts. “I set up this training for all the guys here,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Phillip Jean-Gilles, a BAS corpsman. “We have fun while we’re doing it. We even have our chief and lieutenants out there with us. It’s good to get all the enlisted men and officers together to participate in something like this.” “It takes discipline and commitment to get up in the mornings for MCMAP, but it helps us break the monotony around here,” added Petty Officer 3rd Class Iridious Ruise, the battalion’s preventive medicine technician. Once these Navy personnel earn their belts, Sanford plans to further train them and other Marines. “There are lots of benefits to MCMAP,” he said. “It ties in physical disciplines, like learning these techniques, to other mental and character disciplines. You learn how to kill and seriously injure people, but also how to balance that knowledge with a professional warrior ethos. You learn how to be a warrior, not just a killer.”