ABOARD USS NASSAU, Mediterranean Sea --
The sound of agonizing grunts, bodies being slammed into padded mats and the stench of heavy sweat mixed with salt water fills the hangar bay aboard USS Nassau as 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines and Sailors push their physical and mental limits in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program beginning Feb. 14.
A naval vessel brings many obstacles and boundaries of its own, making it more difficult to hold an official MCMAP course, as opposed to Camp Lejeune, N.C. where the ground doesn’t move.
“Back on base there was a constant scenery, but here the ship rocks, we have man overboard drills and general quarters that often affects our course because it happens during the course,” said Cpl. Isaiah X. Carey, MCMAP black belt instructor, Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th MEU. “The only way that we can adapt and overcome this is to do MCMAP every chance we get.”
Lance Cpl. Gordon D. Drake experienced many challenges of his own aboard ship.
“The environment is much different, you really have to concentrate on what you’re doing and be more aware of your surroundings because there are aircraft and chains everywhere in the hangar bay and a limited amount of space in between,” said Drake, an Ithaca, N.Y. native.
MCMAP consists of a belt-ranking system with five basic levels: tan, gray, green, brown, and black belt. The colored belt levels are identified as “user” levels and are designed to progressively develop the physical skills and lethality of the individual Marine so he becomes a stronger link in the Marine Corps chain.
MCMAP training uses many tools such as: rubber rifles, padded batons, plastic knives, striking pads and many others. Marines and Sailors stop at nothing when it comes to MCMAP, and make due with what they have available to them.
“The great thing about the MCMAP is that you can use anything as a weapon, we may have to compromise a bit, but in the end we have all the resources we need,” said Cpl. Greg B. Chartrau, MCMAP black belt instructor, 24th MEU.
MCMAP increases the war fighting capabilities of Marine units, individuals, and enhances esprit de corps, while fostering the warrior ethos in all Marines.
“I think it is great that they are doing these courses during this deployment, it’s a little more difficult with the different environment, but it keeps us sharp and ready for anything,” said Sgt. William Anderson, police sergeant, 24th MEU, who is working to earn a green belt in MCMAP.
Current circumstances give Marines and Sailors an advantageous opportunity to excel through the MCMAP belt levels at a rapid rate. They have less distractions and much more time on their hands due to the downtime they have on ship.
“Doing MCMAP here on ship definitely helps pass the day because there is not a whole lot you can do here and this keeps me somewhat busy,” said Drake, an Ithaca, N.Y. native.
Several instructors train every chance they get and plan for more follow on courses held periodically through the deployment.
“This gives the people who didn’t have the opportunity to take the course in the rear a chance to move up in belts rather quickly here if they have down time because we will be running these courses progressively as time goes by,” said Chartrau.
This not only gives Marines a chance to train, Sailors also take part in these courses to earn the entry-level tan belt.
“This is my first time doing MCMAP, I really just wanted to gain some of the skills that it has to offer and it gives me something to do to stay busy during this deployment,” said Petty Officer 1st Class James S. Carbone, hospital corpsman, 24th MEU.
In the end, the Marines and Sailors receive the same quality training as they would anywhere else and continue to make use of every opportunity they get to better themselves and prepare for what is to come next.