AL ASAD, Iraq -- Whether it be the dry midday heat, the unrelenting sandstorms or the nonstop maintenance schedule of a deployed squadron, nothing stops Marines from sharpening their combat skills.
Gunnery Sgt. Stephen Lutz, the squadron gunnery sergeant of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 115, the Silver Eagles, has taken it upon himself to train approximately 20 students of various belt levels in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.
The students come from different workspaces within VMFA-115, as well as Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 4, the Sea Hawks, and range from basic tan belt to the more experienced green belt.
“I started the classes to help the Marines push themselves further toward their goals in the MCMAP program,” Lutz, a black belt instructor, explained. “I opened the classes up for the other squadrons on the south side of base because I wanted to help their Marines as well. It doesn’t matter to me where a Marine comes from as long as they are serious about training, I will teach them.”
Assisting Lutz is Gunnery Sgt. John Dalton, the Powerline division chief of VMFA-115. Dalton is a black belt and has been involved in MCMAP for more than six years.
“It is the responsibility of everyone, especially black belts, to help out whenever MCMAP classes are given,” Dalton explained.
Lutz teaches the classes back-to-back from grey belt all the way to brown belt.
“I am training for my brown belt, but I try to go to all of the classes,” said Cpl. Raymond Bryant, a data networking specialist with the Silver Eagles. “It helps me prepare for the more challenging moves taught during the brown belt class.”
As the Marines progress through the techniques, they gain confidence in their ability, according to Lutz, an Elkader, Iowa native.
“We are learning some cool techniques,” said Sgt. Carlos Guitron, the Sea Hawks’ career retention specialist. “As we move through the classes, some of the techniques become very easy. I have noticed how quickly and without much effort, you can take your opponent to the ground.”
Though the training is tough and is normally stacked onto a long workday, it gives the Marines something to look forward to everyday besides taking a shower and going to sleep, Lutz said.
“This is what Marines do,” Dalton added. “We adapt to our environment and use it to our advantage while accomplishing our mission. Conducting MCMAP benefits the Marines by teaching them the disciplines of martial arts, instilling a sense of pride in accomplishing a new belt level and keeps them from sitting in their quarters getting homesick.”
No matter the clime or place, whether through close air support or lethal hand-to-hand combat skills, the Silver Eagles are training to be prepared for whatever comes their way.