119 Wing Security Forces Airmen are using MMA to enhance fitness
By Senior Master Sgt. David H Lipp, 119 Wing
/ Published June 02, 2015
6/2/2015 -- The U.S. Air Force trains security forces personnel to protect assets and people; the training is very effective.
The preparation required to become a professional in security forces requires extensive training in law enforcement and combat tactics, since the Airmen work stateside on base security and potential domestic situations. They can also deploy overseas where they might go on patrols off base in areas that could become hostile.
It is possible that they could have encounters with hostile forces in either case and must be prepared to engage them in a variety of ways, from the use of their weapons to close-quarters and hand-to-hand combat.
The career field is both physically and mentally demanding, and personnel need to be ready for those demands and be confident enough in their abilities to act without hesitation, if necessary.
119th Security Forces Squadron members Senior Airman Michael Bullen and Tech. Sgt. Gemenie Strehlow are taking those preparations to a higher level through their training in mixed martial arts (MMA).
"Not only is the training and competing fun, but we are working on sharpening the skills that we use to perform our duties in security. I feel confident in the skills I have learned through MMA in my security role, and techniques I have learned in security forces have helped me in my competitions," said Bullen.
The training for MMA competition provides the motivation for intense workouts.
"It benefits me in my PT (physical training) testing. The lowest score I have earned since I started training about four years ago was a 97 (on a scale that tops out at 100)," Bullen said.
Bullen and Stehlow were both high school wrestlers, and Bullen is a volunteer coach in the Lake Park, Minnesota, youth wrestling program. MMA training is a way for them to continue competing, and they use the exercise as a stress relief from the rigors of life and work.
Both Strehlow and Bullen participate in competitive MMA fighting, with Strehlow having a posted record of two wins and one loss. Bullen has four wins and three losses.
"I just enjoy the experience of training and being in the ring. It's fun," Bullen said.
He takes the competition seriously, but his enjoyment was apparent May 16 when Bullen was seen smiling and bantering with his corner men throughout a fight held in front of a cheering crowd of about 2,000 people at the Kent Freeman Arena in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. His 155-pound fight was one of 17 fights on the card that night, with fighters of varying professional and amateur experience participating.
"I don't necessarily feel any pain when the adrenaline is pumping during a contest, but I feel the bruises the next day," Bullen said when asked what it feels like to get hit in the ring.
Strehlow and Bullen deployed to Afghanistan together in 2013 and were captivated by the U.S. Air Force pre-deployment combatives training.
While they started training in an MMA gym before the pre-deployment combatives, they were inspired to continue their training while they were deployed, and even take it to the next level.
"We built a camaraderie through our deployment and our training. There was a need for us to be masters of our trade to be better prepared for our mission," Bullen said.
During their deployment, the Airmen were asked to perform a variety of tasks that had potential to put them in situations where knowing how to defend themselves could potentially help them perform their duties. It was apparent that their training in hand-to-hand conflicts would be very beneficial.
Some of their missions overseas included providing security for aircrews in flying aircraft while detainees were being transported, along with the usual gate entry and security tasks involved with defending a base in Afghanistan.
"It's always great to have combative techniques for self-defense as a backup while working in security, and also for self-defense for all Airmen in everyday life," Strehlow said.
The MMA training and fighting comes with some risk of injury, but the Airmen do their best to minimize it.
"My career in the N.D. Air National Guard comes first and I make preparations for safety in my training and competing. I use practice gear while training and I haven't suffered any serious injury in the sport," Bullen said.
Strehlow and Bullen are two Airmen who taking the U.S. Air Force and security warrior ethos to heart as they continue to hone their bodies and minds in preparation for any hostile situation, and they have been very willing to share their knowledge and techniques with other 119th Security Forces personnel.
"This type of training in combatives is very valuable to Security Forces members and Senior Airman Bullen and Tech. Sgt. Strehlow are taking it to another level. This is another tool in their tool belts, which could help them if they ever find themselves in a life or death situation," said 2nd Lt. Jason Augdahl, of the 119th Security Forces Squadron.