Popular martial arts magazines regularly feature ads from instructors claiming to have taught hand-to-hand fighting skills to special forces units. The reality is that, like any other modern soldiers, the Green Berets are not particularly focused on hand-to-hand combatives. The U.S. Army's recruitment and training page for the Green Berets does not even mention this type of training. However, it is incorporated into the overall training system.
The Weapons School
The Green Berets fight with modern weapons such as firearms and anti-armor or anti-tank weapons. The four-week Weapons Sergeant Course teaches the Special Forces recruit the effective use of light infantry weapons, portable anti-aircraft weapons, combined arms fire, small-unit tactics and the use of obsolete firearms such as those often found in the Third World.
The SERE Course
All officers and enlisted men in the Green Berets attend the SERE Course. SERE is an acronym for Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape. The SERE Course teaches Green Berets to survive behind the lines in enemy territory, to evade capture by hostile forces, to resist interrogation if captured and to escape from captivity.
Green Beret recruits are taught how to create improvised weapons out of spare parts and objects in the environment as part of the SERE Course in evasion and survival. If the Green Beret is stuck in hostile territory and out of contact with his comrades or allies, bladed weapons such as large knives and machetes can be created from found objects, as can percussion weapons such as clubs.
Hand-to-Hand Combat and Stress Inoculation
Green Beret recruits attending the SERE Course in evasion and survival are taught how to use techniques of hand-to-hand combat when necessary. An even more important skill, however, is the ability to endure high levels of stress and anxiety. The SERE Course emphasizes stress inoculation. Would-be Green Berets are put through a simulation of being hunted and captured by an enemy force, after which they are deprived of food and sleep and relentlessly interrogated. Only one in four recruits can pass this test.
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