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Marines certify female airman as martial arts instructor

Jul. 26, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Staff Sgt. Jessica Field runs the obstacle course during her three-week Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Program training.
Staff Sgt. Jessica Field runs the obstacle course during her three-week Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor Program training. (Courtesy photos)
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Field says her husband, former Marine Sgt. Ethan Field, encouraged her to take the Marine martial arts training. (Courtesy photo)

Meet the first female airman to become a certified martial arts instructor through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Center of Excellence at Quantico, Virginia.

Staff Sgt. Jessica Field graduated from the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instructor course July 18 with her green belt — enhanced with the tan instructor-certified tab — ready to share what she has learned.

“The overall goal for me is to take this program back to the Air Force, and in turn, teach other airmen,” Field, a member of the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, Fort Meade, Maryland, told Air Force Times.

While dozens of airmen have trained through the tan and gray belt levels of the program, only 12 have gone through the instructor course at Quantico, said 1st Lt. Matt Rojo, spokesman for the Marine Corps Training and Education Command. And Field is the only female airman to earn her certification through the challenging three-week, 10-hour-a-day instructor course at Quantico.

“Earning the title of Marine Corps Martial Arts Instructor is a tremendous accomplishment, and we applaud Staff Sgt. Field for demonstrating the physical, mental and character discipline that defines the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program,” Rojo said.

A green belt is required of all Marine infantrymen, and green-belt instructors can train tan and gray students.

Field entered the Marine program, known as MCMAP, in 2010, while she was stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Her goal was to learn basic self-defense.

“All it takes is going down the wrong alleyway, the wrong bar ... things like that. And I wanted to make sure I could defend myself,” Field said. “You never know, and in those dynamic situations, you want to be able to — especially for me being a female — make sure that I can be able to get free long enough for me to get help or do whatever I need to do.”

During the course, Field said she trained once or twice a day with the 16 Marines in her class, three of whom were women, and also passed the Marine Corps’ combat fitness test.

“We’re going out into the woods, we’re going out and doing these crazy obstacle courses. ... We’ll go over all of the techniques, and there’s a huge emphasis on pedagogy and how to teach by the Marine Corps standards,” Field said.

The training goes beyond just being able to do the techniques, Field said. It also ties in character and mental preparation for combat. These ethical lessons are linked to each move.

While Field may have to “tweak her teaching” for airmen in her classes, the program is synonymous with Air Force values, she said.

“As far as the ethics and having that combat mindset, this absolutely translates into the Air Force because the [Marine Corps] core values of honor, courage and commitment tie in with our core values of integrity, service before self, and excellence in all we do,” she said.

Field and her fellow instructor trainees and instructors discussed the transition of MCMAP values to the Air Force, she said, especially in the “days of the expeditionary airman and the joint environment.”

“The Air Force as a whole doesn’t have anything like this. ... We don’t even have any formal way to even begin to train for it, especially these days ... as [airmen] are getting pushed out to these remote areas,” for deployments and intelligence work, she said. “All it takes is one bad day, and then you’re turning around and you’re defenseless.”

The Air Force has basic combatives training for airmen in specific career fields such as security forces and for airmen headed to deployed locations. The Air Force has also put on two-day to weeklong basic combatives training courses at bases such as Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. And Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, hosts a basic two-week combatives course for airmen coming through Officer Training School, and also for AFROTC cadets in the summer months. But none of these is as extensive as the Marine program.

Field’s husband, former Marine Sgt. Ethan Field, was the one who initially encouraged her to take MCMAP classes, and “has been the driving force behind my success with the [instructor] course as well,” she said.

Field, in the Air Force seven years, is waiting on Air Force headquarters approval to wear her green instructor belt on her uniform — a standard practice for Marines in their Combat Utility Uniform. She hopes to begin teaching a MCMAP class in early August at Fort Meade to members from all services.

“Ideally I’ll take this certification with me anywhere I go,” Field said. “For me, this is all about being able to bring this back to the Air Force. That’s what keeps me going.”

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