CAMP DWYER, AFGHANISTAN
CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan – Black, brown, green, gray and tan. Those are the colors of the belt levels of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program that a ‘user’ can earn.
Red is a color reserved for a Marine who has the extreme discipline and dedication required to earn the right to become an instructor trainer. Hours, days and weeks are spent under grueling training conditions to earn the red tab these Marines display on their belts.
Four red instructor tabs represent the experience and discipline of U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Jason Rossman, the company gunnery sergeant of Charlie Company, 3rd Assault Amphibious Battalion, currently attached to Combat Logistics Battalion 1.
Rossman, a 4th degree black belt MCMAP instructor and 37-year-old native of Grand Junction, Colo., began his martial arts journey in the Corps in 2001 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe Bay.
“My platoon sergeant was a first degree martial arts instructor at the time,” said Rossman. “He was really for the program…he was the reason I really got into it.”
In 2002, Rossman attended the martial arts instructor trainer course at the Marine Corps Martial Arts Center for Excellence, or MACE, in Quantico, Va. After receiving his first red tab, Rossman then returned to Hawaii as a MCMAP instructor trainer for division schools.
Rossman received a phone call from the MACE in 2003, and in February of the following year, he checked in to the Corps’ martial arts center as an instructor trainer. He served as an instructor, training Marines sent to Quantico to become instructors, and new Marine officers going through The Basic School. He also held the MCMAP curriculum developer billet during his time at the MACE.
“We had an ‘A’ team and ‘B’ team,” said Rossman. “One team would stay in Quantico to teach the course, while the other would be out teaching Marines or developing the martial arts or self-defense program of another country.”
“I’ve been to Rio De Janeiro, Columbia, Panama and other countries to help them with their martial arts program,” he added.
Since becoming an instructor, Rossman has trained over 10,000 Marines in MCMAP. It’s clear that the success of his student is what drives him.
“When they see your belt, a lot of people label you as a ‘ninja’,” said Rossman. “It’s funny because the only thing that damn belt does is hold my pants up.”
One of his more notable students is former Marine Capt. Brian Stann, whom Rossman trained for his first three professional fights. Stann is now a professional mixed martial arts competitor in the Ultimate Fighting Championship circuit, who at point point held the World Extreme Cagefighting Light Heavyweight Championship title.
During this deployment, which began in October, Rossman has grown and developed the skills of hundreds of Marines in the program.
He teaches Marines wherever padded mats are available, including a 10 by 15 foot training area, not more than a few paces away from his office. The training mats are partially torn and patched with duct tape, while training equipment such as plastic knives and striking pads are scarce and well used. Though the training conditions are near Spartan-like, it doesn’t stop Rossman from his passion of teaching and spreading the wealth of knowledge and experience he has accumulated over the years.
“A lot of the Marines are enthusiastic about the program,” said Rossman. “We have Marines who would get off their 12 hour shifts from work, and go work on their skills at 10, maybe 11 p.m., with the lights shining on the mats.”
“I can see that they’re getting out, being active and not being home-bodies and just going back to their cans [living quarters] and doing nothing at the end of the night,” explained Rossman. “It’s pretty motivating and I hope I contributed to that..”
He graduated 17 instructors during a grueling 6-week course in February.
“I’m really proud of the instructors I graduated,” said Rossman. “Most of the instructors I had were sergeants, and I know they’re going to carry the program and do the right thing.”
“Gunny Rossman pushes each Marine past their physical barrier to test their mental stability and to create a stronger warrior,” said Cpl. Jaymie Ahumada, a company clerk and logistics vehicle operator with Headquarters and Support Company. CLB-1 and 21-year-old native of Denver. Ahumada is one of the MCMAP instructors that recently graduated under Rossman’s tutelage.
“He goes above and beyond to help every Marine succeed in what they are trying to accomplish,” added Ahumada. “He embodies the mental, physical and character disciplines of MCMAP.”
Aside from teaching the MCMAP curriculum, Rossman also goes out of his way to teach other martial arts, such as kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, eskrima and kali.
“At the MACE, we used to have martial artists come through and give us demonstrations of their martial arts,” said Rossman. “I picked up on some of what they were showing us and started training on them on my own time.”
“A lot of what I teach is weapons based tactics,” said Rossman. “I really like eskrima and kali, which are both Filipino martial arts…the moves are designed to be short, and to the point, which can be an advantage for Marines especially when they’re in full body armor.”
As the end for his deployment gets ever closer, Rossman plans to continue teaching and pushing Marines to achieve excellence, not only in MCMAP but in their careers as well.
Rossman has been selected for promotion to the rank of first sergeant. As he continues through his successful Marine Corps career, Rossman will continue to promote and grow Marine Corps Martial Arts wherever he travels.
“I’m going to push the program no matter where I go,” explained Rossman. “It doesn’t matter what degree I am, whether I’m a first sergeant or if I move to sergeant major, I’ll always be in the trenches with my Marines, doing martial arts and combat conditioning and getting thrown to the ground, just as hard as them.”
Editor’s note: Combat Logistics Battalion 1, Marine Logistics Group 1 (Forward), is currently operating in direct support of Regimental Combat Team 5, 1st Marine Division (Forward), which works in partnership with the Afghan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces and enabling ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.
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This work, Colorado Marine teaches discipline through martial arts in Afghanistan, by Sgt Alfred V. Lopez, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.