352nd SOG members learn life-saving techniques

RAF MILDENHALL, England -- Bloody knuckles and bruised arms and legs; not the way most people would choose to spend a day, much less their week.

However, seven individuals from the 352nd Special Operations Group did just that in order to successfully complete Krav Maga training here recently.

Krav Maga is a system of close-quarters combat techniques based on targeting attacks to the body's most vulnerable points, neutralizing opponents as quickly as possible and maintaining awareness of one's surroundings while dealing with the threat.

Back in 2007, members of the 352nd SOG's security forces flight received Krav Maga training and were certified as instructors. They returned to RAF Mildenhall and began conducting training their flight and later within squadron the 352nd Special Operations Support Squadron. The response to the training was so favorable, they decided to offer it to the entire 352nd SOG.

"Krav Maga teaches life-saving skills," said Master Sgt. Craig Kuiper, one of the certified instructors assigned to the 352nd SOSS. "The 352nd SOG's deployments to the area of responsibility introduce the possibility of coming across a terrorist or enemy combatant. Krav Maga gives them the knowledge and mindset that if faced with a life-threatening situation, they could overcome it and return to see their family another day."

Despite the pain and exhausting drills, the participants -- ranging in age, gender and fitness levels -- were all determined to finish the physically challenging training.

"It's intense," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Caro, also an instructor. "You're using muscles that you don't normally use. You're always punching, kneeing and kicking, and day-to-day, you don't really use those muscles unless you're a professional boxer or professional fighter. Doing this all day for five straight days is tiring overall, which is why a lot of people were surprised about what hurt and how they felt."

According to Sergeant Kuiper, the class covered the gamut of self defense scenarios and techniques. From proper stance and movement, to punches and kicks, the course taught the correct way to throw elbows, how to get out of chokeholds, and long-gun and knife takeaways.

"I came in unsure of what to expect, but I was excited to learn the basics of Krav Maga after hearing about it," said Tech. Sgt. Mitchell Lombard, 352nd SOG Manpower office. "I came out with a really valuable foundation of tools that I hope I never have to use, but that could really mean the difference between life and death. These tools are quick and very effective, and that are meant to get you out of a bad spot and move on. Nothing is too hard to learn. It is somewhat physically demanding, but anyone can learn it with the repetition that's built into the class."

The last day of the class featured a challenge requiring the participants to put their newly-acquired skills to the test.

"They did a straight run through of everything they learned, wearing the full battle gear that they would be deployed with," said Sergeant Kuiper. "They started out with how to defend themselves, by throwing punches and went all the way up to the takeaway of blunt objects and how to get an individual off them and gain the dominant position in order to get out and away from the fight and save their life."

The feedback the instructors received was encouraging.

"They've all enjoyed it," said Sergeant Caro. "Overall, they love the experience of going through it and learning new skills, such as defending against individuals with weapons and knowing that they'll be able to do something about it instead of just panicking. Krav Maga teaches you how to react to the situation by instinct, not by any type of special equipment."

"Anyone who has the time to take this class absolutely should," said Sergeant Lombard.

The 352nd SOG Krav Maga instructors are currently only offering classes to members of the 352nd SOG, but look forward to possibly expanding to the entire base.