Guard gets physical at Pa. armory

February 20, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - U.S. Army techniques developed for fighting overseas made their way to Waynesboro last week as part of an ongoing physical fitness program at the local armory.

Gym mats substituted for desert terrain as two combatives trainers, Staff Sgt. Michael Thayer and Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Paul, presented methods of hand-to-hand fighting to about 30 people, many of whom then practiced the skills under the pair's guidance.

"It's more what (soldiers) are learning in basic training," said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Wood, who hosted the trainers for the special class.


Wood started a weekly fitness program last fall to serve two purposes. In addition to getting himself and participants in shape, he wanted to remind residents of the National Guard's presence in the community.

While making a presentation at a middle school career day, Woods realized very few students knew the location of the armory. Yet, they all knew the site of the municipal pool - essentially across the street from the armory on Pa. 316.

"This armory's been here since the 1920s. They don't know where it's at," Wood said.

His Wednesday-night program typically draws four to six people, age 16 or older as required, to exercise or play a game like basketball.

The number of participants spiked last week in anticipation of the combat training, and soldiers in various stages of their careers arrived for a refresher on the techniques.

Those techniques can save a soldier's life if he goes through a door in Iraq only to find his weapon has malfunctioned, said Thayer. The nonlethal fighting techniques are used to keep the enemy submissive until a fellow soldier arrives for backup, he explained.

Thayer said many of the combatives techniques allow a soldier to put someone to sleep in three to five seconds, often by cutting off the blood supply to that person's brain.

Soldiers are finding themselves in more face-to-face situations than a few decades ago when they spent much of their time shooting from distances of 300 to 400 yards, said Thayer.

Thayer and Paul primarily emphasized ground-fighting techniques, including arm bars and chokeholds, during the class.

"We teach the ground fighting first because it's the easiest to learn and that's where 95 percent of fights end up," Paul told the participants.

"It doesn't take a lot of strength. That's another good thing about the techniques we teach," he said.

Pfc. Charles Stover, who finished his basic training Jan. 19, said the class reflected "the beginning steps" of what he recently learned.

Stover said he was able to incorporate his wrestling experience in the ground-fighting lessons, which he said were reviewed daily in basic training.

The participants at the armory were lucky to learn from two top combatives trainers, commented Wood, who said he will continue to offer the physical fitness program indefinitely.

For more information, call Wood at 717-762-5893.

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