From Thailand to Iraq: Compare & Contrast



 Written by:  SSgt Christopher Thompson


It's 5:30 in the morning and you have already been up for a little while. You hit the cobwebs out of your eyes and get up walking out of your room being welcomed by the 130 degree heat for a short walk to the gym area. You start with your run 2 maybe 3 miles with some of you fellow gym mates. Then back to do some light weights, rounds shadowboxing, rounds of punches, kicks, knees and elbows on the bag just as the sun is starting to rise up. You finish you workout it is now 7:00am as you get some light food to tide your hunger, then a quick wash up and dressed to go out and face the day.

The difference is you're not a young Thai child getting ready to go to school or even a Thai boxer resting a bit before you next training session. You are a member of the United States Military stationed in Iraq and the clothes you put on are your uniform, a Kevlar vest (with all plates and gear weighing at about 60-75 pounds), a M9 pistol, and a M4 Riffle and work is war. My Name is SSgt Christopher Thompson I'm a Chaplain Assistant in the US Air Force.I have been in the Air Force for 10 years and I'm on my 3rd deployment to Iraq. My job is to provide protection for my Chaplain's and to aid in ministry. This time around I'm assigned to an Army Chaplain and we spent 6 months FOB (Forward Operating Base) hopping providing Catholic Masses to troops that had not even seen a priest or been to a service in over a year. These trips take us on Blackhawk Helicopter rides down places affectionately called "RPG (rocket propelled grenade) Alley", On Convoys where VBIED (Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device) and roadside IED's (Improvised Explosive Device) are the norm , and just on foot. After my travels I have two things to say: 1-I have never been prouder to be in the United States Military than when I'm helping troop with faith and mental issues caused by this war, their strength astounds me and 2: Muay
Thai is alive and well in are Armed Forces. Thailand has many outdoor gyms, so does Iraq. Troops will do whatever it takes to keep up with training and keep there skills sharp. I have heard it said "Necessity is the mother of invention" no where is that truer than in the military I have seen make shift heavy bags made out of a duffle bag and the most ready source of material out there SAND, they hang them with 550 cord (parachute rope) to where ever they can.


In Thailand I have seen people shadow box with hand weights our troop just put on their Kevlar vest and box, run, even do push ups in it great training and gets you used to wearing it. The US Armed forces have found the value in Muay Thai. Every place I went to had heavy bags, outdoor rings, and place set aside for Martial arts training. The Army and the Marines have embraced it. The Army has the MACP (Modern Army Combative Program) which looks a lot like MMA it is Muay Thai and Brazilian Jujitsu. The Marines have the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program which even has belts. It is a combination of Muay Thai, Judo, and Tae-Kwon-Do. While there is a good chance not many of our troops may get into hand-to-hand combat while out there. Muay Thai training makes you tough, keeps you focused, enhanced you endurance and reaction time. I have talked to some of my student from out there that told me that they could take a blast and keep going cause of that vest and the body condition I put them thru. Muay Thai teaches you to fight through the pain. In Thailand the Wai Kru and Ram Muay are done before fights to honor gym, family, and God.

In Iraq it is to but it is done after the fight. To do the Wai Kru and ram Muay as a prayerful, calming, relaxing way to get you head back together or even before training just to try to dump the stuff from the day. It was no big deal to be training and here mortars and gunfire. Several times my class had to hit the floor and take cover. You just do it, get back up when all is clear, and keep going. In Thailand they fight a lot to support their family, make money, and earn honor...I guess our troops aren't so different than the Thai's after all.


All Baghdad shots were from Sept 2007-Jan 2008 All Balad shots were from Jan 2006- May 2006


Copyright 2008 USMTA Inc.  All rights reserved. Revised: June 06, 2008