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Cpl. Robert Arellano became a Martial Arts Instructor, Dec. 16, 2016, after he completed a three-week long MCMAP instructor course in Okinawa, Japan. Arellano, a combat camera production specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, is from Yuma, Arizona. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Bernadette Wildes)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Bernadette Wildes

Arizona combat camera Marine moonlights as martial arts instructor

1 Feb 2017 | III Marine Expeditionary Force

Late on a Friday, most Marines were on their way out to enjoy a weekend night, but not Cpl. Robert Arellano. He was on his way home from his second Marine Corps Martial Arts Program session of the day.

 Arellano, from Yuma, Arizona, is known for his motivation and dedication, which is why MCMAP called to him. Initially, Arellano pushed himself to make it through a rigorous course and earn his MCMAP instructor status. Today, he strives to juggle the significant duties of preparing Marines mentally and physically for the realities of combat as a MCMAP instructor, or MAI, while fulfilling his primary duties as a combat camera production specialist.

 Arellano's passion for MCMAP began at his military occupational specialty school in Fort Meade, Maryland.

 He was Pfc. Arellano when he went through the grey belt course in Quantico, Virginia. Immediately after, he was given the opportunity to earn his green belt.
“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve said, heck yeah, I earned this, this is my belt,” said Arellano. “I was so excited to be in boots and utes every time I belted up, just to show off the new belt that I just earned, especially my green belt.”

Since then, Arellano, a combat camera production specialist with Headquarters Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, has taken on challenges and obstacles to continue to grow in his MCMAP career. 

 On Dec. 16, 2016, Arellano graduated from the Martial Arts Instructor Course. The three-week course was filled with a wide variety of physical fitness drills. Some were short, and some lasted for hours.

 His instructors were tough. Every day they would tell him he could quit at any time. Even with the daily challenges, he continued to push himself to be better.

“I always thought about quitting because it was just too stressful,” said Arellano. “We would do (physical training) every day. There was a lot expected of us, and they were very strict when it came to the techniques.”

MCMAP is physically demanding, but it is more than that. It is often referred to as a three-legged stool. There are physical, mental, and character disciplines taught throughout the course. Without one, the stool can’t stand.

“The common misconception about MCMAP is it’s just a slay fest, you’re just going to do PT, learn some moves, and fight each other, but it’s more than that,” said Arellano. “It’s about growing and developing yourself as a person and especially as a Marine.”

Because of the intensity of the MAI Course, Arellano was mentally and physically tested every day.

“I just pushed through,” said Arellano. “It’s all about surviving. Knowing that it’s going to end -- the pain is going to end -- that’s how I got through it mentally.”

Once he became an instructor, Arellano dedicated over 60 hours to helping Marines belt up. His life is now comprised of very early mornings and late nights with a lot of hard work in between.

“It gets pretty tiring going in the morning and then dealing with work,” said Arellano. “Then afterword, driving up to Hansen, I think about the Marines I’m training and how close I’ve gotten to them already.”

“I never see him tired,” said Lance Cpl. Trentin Dunn, also a combat camera production specialist with HQ Bn. “He is able to mix it all up; he is just so motivated.”

Dunn works with Arellano and is also one of his students. He sees the qualities in Arellano that make him the instructor that he is.

“He cares about other Marines more than other (noncommissioned officers) that I've seen,” said Dunn. “He’s a great MAI. He is motivated, he’s knowledgeable and he’s influential. All around, he is a great Marine.”

His students are his biggest motivation. He loves watching the Marines grow and develop throughout each course.

“The greatest reward is seeing the faces of the Marines earning their belt,” said Arellano. “I can see it’s a more confident Marine (who's) willing to strive for more and willing to reach out -- willing to talk. Not being afraid to step outside of the box, that’s the greatest reward for me.”