In November, officials with Headquarters and Service Battalion, U.S. Marine Forces, Pacific, mandated Marine Corps Martial Arts training to be held on a regular basis with the goal of training every Marine to grey belt. Two instructors took that challenge.
Sgt. Joseph M. Benezette, a Marine Corps Martial Arts instructor trainer, and Sgt. Robert J. Porras, MCMAP instructor, volunteered to take the lead and launch an aggressive MCMAP training regiment. They did it with their sights set on training at least 80 percent of HQSVC Bn. to green belt, the third level of proficiency, before August.
Originally, Master Sgt. Raymond A. Ortiz, HQSVC Bn.’s operations chief, called a meeting with all instructors and instructor trainers in the battalion to develop a plan for sustained martial arts training. Porras and Benezette created that plan.
“We wanted to push MCMAP more,” Ortiz said. “I put out some basic guidance and asked for their input. (Benezette and Porras) have taken the lead 100 percent and have been doing some great things with the Marines,” Ortiz said.
What started as sustainment training two days a week for Marines who could find time in their work schedule has evolved into early morning training geared toward earning higher belts.
“At first it was really good,” Porras said. “We had a lot of participation but then it started to wear off. The twice-a-week classes was too repetitive, there were Marines from all different levels attending and the instructors were on a rotating schedule. So a lot of Marines would show up one day and then go through the exact same training over and over again.”
To spur the interest of the Marines, Benezette and Porras volunteered not just to train twice a week, but to hold continuous training every morning focused on Marines upgrading their belts.
“Sgt. Benezette keeps coming up with more,” Ortiz said. “If he notices a decrease in participation he’ll come up with new ways to promote it in the battalion or change the training to attract more participation. He’s been keeping his finger on the pulse of the program.”
Though the instructors are searching for maximum participation, they are not looking for Marines who just want to get their belts for the sake of looking “cool” in uniform.
“The goal is for them to be better Marines when they leave the course than they were when they started,” Benezette said. “MCMAP isn’t just about being a warrior; it’s about character, physicality and mental fortitude. That’s the goal Marines should strive for: being better Marines.”
One of the major hurdles to accomplishing their goal is the risk of injury, a problem addressed with multiple changes to the program within the last decade, but Porras and Benezette have adjusted their training to accommodate Marines with individual issues.
“If I have a senior Marine who has knee problems in the course, I’m not going to make him overtask his knee,” Benezette said. “We don’t do ‘gentlemen’s courses’ but we adjust the training. If I’m having the rest of the Marines do sprints, I might have him low crawl. We can adjust the combat conditioning to suite an individual.”
Above all the instructors encourage every Marine to attend.
“With these morning classes, Marines now have better opportunities to attend,” Benezette said. “Now it’s about who has the dedication.”
Benezette and Porras are currently running a green belt course from 6 a.m. - 8 a.m. Monday through Friday at Bordelon Field, Camp H. M. Smith.
Sustainment training is offered Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Benezette and Porras have tentatively scheduled a green/ brown belt course in May. Depending on how many Marines decide to participate.