JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Spc. Jeffery Putnam, a Raleigh, N.C., native and ammunition specialist for 63rd Ordnance Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) from Ft. Lewis, Wash., and completed what only a small percentage of Soldiers have — the Army Combatives Level 3 course.
The four-week-long course was intended to teach the Soldiers more advanced hand-to-hand combat than they learned in Levels 2 and 3.
"Spc. Putnam is a well respected Soldier in his unit for many reasons," 1st Lt. Aaron Kao, a Unit Public Affairs Representative for 80th Ord. Bat., said.
"[He] is known for his mellow easy-going attitude coupled with a strong sense of professionalism."
Putnam and his buddy, Spc. Ryan Miklos a native of Tampa, Fla., took nearly two months before enrolling in Level 3 to prepare their bodies and minds. After hours of Cross-Fit training, boxing combination drills, and practicing their grappling fundamentals, the two were ready for Level 3.
"Level 3 is notorious for its high likelihood of injury due to the graduating requirements mandating that students fight against each other in weekly bouts within a UFC-like, Octagon-style cage," Kao said.
"The bout regulations progress from boxing, to kickboxing, Greek pankration-style fighting ... culminating in the fourth and final week of the dreaded Filipino stick fights."
Four weeks later, Putnam and Miklos both graduated successfully as Level 3 certified instructors.
Before deploying, they put their newly developed skills into teaching and mentoring their fellow Soldiers by conducting internal company Combatives Level 1 courses, Kao said.
As a Level 3 certified instructor, a Soldier can officially certify Level 1 students under the Modern Army Combatives Program, and it is a rare occurrence that such a task is completed at the company level with Soldiers given the opportunity to certify their peers, Kao explained.
"I don't consider myself a naturally gifted fighter, but I really enjoy teaching and coaching others to learn the things I have learned," Putnam said.
"I think that most people can become decent at fighting if they choose to push themselves."
Putnam emphasized the importance of having others for support in his pursuit.
"My wife Julia who is always supportive of everything I do and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Mantooth, [a Biloxi, Miss., native of 63rd Ord. Company, and 63rd's resident Level 4 certified instructor] who was there from the beginning to help prepare me for Level 3."
Putnam completed the Level 1 certification of over 40 Soldiers from Joint Base Balad, Victory Base Camp, and Warhorse, Kao said.
Putnam said he greatly relished the opportunity to take a break from his primary job and take some time off from the Joint Base Balad Corps Storage Area to do something he greatly enjoys — teaching and mentoring fellow Soldiers.