Staff Sgt. Charlie Alcantara, right, with the 3-6 Air and Missile Defense Test Detachment at WSMR, is leading the training with the help of Spc. Trentin Cowell, center, and CW2 Lionell Anderson, left.

U.S. Army Combatives Program making fighters out of Soldiers

The U.S. Army Combatives Program at White Sands Missile Range, the Army’s program for self-defense, is making fighters out of Soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Charlie Alcantara, with the 3-6 Air and Missile Defense Test Detachment at WSMR, is leading the training with the help of Spc. Trentin Cowell and CW2 Lionell Anderson.

The U.S. Army Combatives Program enhances unit combat readiness by building Soldiers' personal courage, confidence, and resiliency as well as their situational responsiveness to close quarters threats in the operational environment.

Anderson, who got into the combatives program when he joined the Army, said he has been doing some sort of combat sports since he was a kid, to include wrestling, karate, and even did a little bit of boxing. He and Cowell started the program at WSMR.

Cowell, who also got into the combatives program when he joined the Army, said he started wrestling in junior high school and continued through high school. After that he transitioned to Muay Thai and Jiu-Jitsu.

Alcantara, who has been at WSMR since January, said his secondary role is training Soldiers how to fight. His primary role with the unit is S3 NCOIC and it is to coordinate some of the training for the unit.

Alcantara, who has been in the military for 10 years, said he started training when he was about 6 or 7 years old doing Golden Glove Boxing or American traditional boxing. He then transitioned to kick boxing with ISKA and did that for some time.

The ISKA is one of the major international bodies regulating sport karate and kickboxing matches. It is based in the United States.

Then while in the Army stationed in Okinawa, Japan he became the ISKA heavy weight champion. Alcantara said he was there for five years and left undefeated.

Alcantara then transitioned to MMA. Mixed martial arts is a full-contact combat sport based on striking, grappling and ground fighting, incorporating techniques from various combat sports from around the world. He said his training was tailored to that. Now he does Jiu-Jitsu wrestling, Muay Thai, American boxing, an amalgamation of all those martial arts.

When Alcantara arrived at WSMR he said the program didn’t exist, but Anderson and Cowell were in the process of setting up the program.

“I was fortunate enough to meet them when I arrived, and we were able to establish this place,” he said of the training facility located in one of the SOF-TEC buildings. “When we took ownership of this facility it was just full of lockers, and I don’t think it was being used.”

“We got the mats in here and we are slowly but surely building our program.”

Alcantara said the team is getting ready to go to a competition in September.

Alcantara said that units and installations can host tournaments and the next one will be at Fort Sill, Okla., which he said will be the first tournament in quite some time.

When they return the team will come back and train for next year’s Lacerda Cup competition. The Lacerda Cup competition is the All-Army competition that takes place at Fort Moore, Ga.

Several members of the unit will be part of the team to include a member from McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic.

Alcantara said he thinks combatives training is a skill that should be mandatory not just for the military but for people in general.

“I think it instills a certain discipline that you are not going to find anywhere else,” he said. “It requires that discipline take place not just here on the mat but off the mat.”

“It you train like this, but you are not eating properly or getting enough rest then the training here is not going to mean anything,” he said. “It is called martial arts lifestyle, because you take this training and apply it to all aspects of your life. I think it is a different type of discipline that everyone should experience.”

Speaking specifically about Soldiers, Alcantara said it helps boost morale.

“It gives them a chance to engage with people in a way they wouldn’t otherwise. We leave our ranks outside and all that matters is training and respect for one another.”

Alcantara said training is open to anyone on post who wants to train with them. The group trains every morning starting at 6 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. 

“I appreciate anyone who’s willing to come and train,” Alcantara said. “I think you can see a noticeable difference in people who come take this training. You become humble and more grounded.”

Alcantara said he and the G3 have been talking about opening the training to civilians on post.

He said they are looking into offering a Saturday open mat session for those who can’t make it during the week.

“We are working on getting a solidified schedule for Saturday.”

For more information contact Alcantara at (520) 553-4157 or email him on global.

Miriam Rodriguez

WSMR Public Affairs