Earning a Green Belt

Testing the limits of their physical and mental stamina, 13 Marines here are nearing completion of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program green belt instructor course.

For nearly three weeks, Sgt. Reynaldo A. Deleon, MCMAP instructor trainer and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 aviation supply specialist, has led the dedicated group through a rigorous series of combat conditioning drills, martial arts sustainment and classroom sessions.

Although injury and fatigue commonly account for a large number of drops during the training, Deleon is impressed that 13 of the original 14 students have remained strong.

“Usually the attrition rate is very high in this course,” said Deleon, a Defiance, Ohio, native. “It’s very physically demanding training, which makes it hard to keep their bodies healthy.”

“This course we have a tough group of Marines,” he added. “They’re just not going to quit.”

A typical day begins at 6 a.m. when the class warms up and heads out for its first physical training session. Repeated runs through the obstacle course, forced marches with weighted packs and long periods of sparring or grappling are normal fare for morning PT.

“The physical part has been the most difficult for everyone,” said Sgt. Kyle R. Vangorder, Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 data network specialist and native of Phoenix. “You just have to keep moving, get in there and get it done, and get to that next break.”

Before going to lunch, students spend several hours sharpening their teaching skills by reviewing tan through green belt moves and applying the Explain, Demonstrate, Imitate, Practice (EDIP) process. EDIP is a fundamental element of MCMAP instruction used to train all Marines, from recruits to officers, the proper implementation and execution of techniques.

“What we focus on in training is more than the physical aspect,” said Deleon. “We need mental and professional discipline. In this class, the Marines have been extremely good at their EDIP techniques. They’ve done a great job as teachers.”

Not only does Vangorder feel the past three weeks have built up his body, his mind has grown equally strong.

“A lot of what we learned has been how to conduct a period of instruction and (how to) conduct yourself professionally, stuff like that,” Vangorder said. “The information applies to all-around military life as far as leading Marines and taking charge. It helps to hone those skills of leadership you already have and add a couple other tools in your toolbox.”

For the rest of the afternoon, the students receive evaluations on their martial arts or instruction skills while they continue grappling or sparring. With sweat-drenched cammies and aching muscles, these Marines finish the day as hard as they began – happy to soon be able to call themselves green belt instructor titles.

“It’s tough, but it’s worth it,” said Cpl. Harold S. Brice, Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron correctional specialist and native of Preston, Md. “Personally, it’s always been important for me to challenge myself, and this has been a great way to do it.”

Deleon feels by becoming a MCMAP instructor Marines will reap a host of benefits far exceeding a strenuous workout or another page in their Service Record Books.

“It’s giving back to the Marine Corps,” he said. “This is small unit leadership at its best when you have corporals and sergeants teaching everyone from a (private first class) to an officer.”

“Going through all this training with the students, you see them grow physically and mentally,” Deleon added. “It’s rewarding when you see their character grow as well.”