McNeal-Smith brings martial arts passion to Parris Island’s Drill Field

3 mins read

By Lance Cpl. Samuel Fletcher, USMC

Gunnery Sgt. Lamar S. McNeal-Smith grew up an athlete. He played football and soccer his first two years in high school and wrestled his junior and senior year before enlisting in the United States Marine Corps in 2007.

“My thing is ground fighting,” McNeal-Smith said. “I like ground fighting since it pertains to my wrestling skills, and most fights end up on the ground anyways.”

During his first enlistment, McNeal-Smith steadily progressed through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, earning multiple martial arts belts. Lamar earned his black belt while deployed to Afghanistan and by 2010 was already a Martial Arts Instructor in the Marine Corps.

“MCMAP provides individuals with a basic understanding of martial arts. It also develops their character as well with the tie-ins and

Recruits with Lima Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, practice martial arts techniques aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, Nov. 6, 2020. The purpose of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program is to execute unarmed and armed techniques to use lethal and non-lethal force across a spectrum of violence. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Samuel Fletcher)

warrior case studies,” McNeal-Smith said. “We have MCMAP to defend ourselves if the situation dictates and to also continue to learn and better ourselves as well.”

McNeal-Smith is now a third-degree Martial Arts Instructor-Trainer. To earn his third-degree belt, he had to write a 3,000-word essay, have his second-degree belt for two years and have 150 hours of volunteer service. McNeal-Smith is qualified to train Marines in MCMAP and train Marines to be MCMAP instructors.

In 2019 McNeal-Smith arrived at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island to serve as a drill instructor. He served nine months as a drill instructor before being transferred to Leatherneck Square to serve as the lead Martial Arts Instructor and Staff Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge. He was selected for the billet based on his experience in Marine Corps Martial Arts and being the most experienced MAI aboard Parris Island at the time of his selection.

LNS is where recruits are taught entry-level MCMAP. LNS also hosts the Martial Arts Instructor Course and regular MCMAP courses for Marines aboard Parris Island.

“The Marine Corps needs a MCMAP program. We all come from different walks of life and don’t experience the same growth in martial arts,” McNeal-Smith said. “The martial arts you learned from recruit training and throughout your career can help you greatly. It can improve your chance of survival.”


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