FORT BENNING, Ga.- Soldiers stationed around the world descended on Fort Hood, Texas, to fight for top honors at the 2012 All-Army Combatives Tournament July 28.
For the fighters, the competition represented the culmination of many hours of hard work honing their skills.
“It takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” explained Staff Sgt. Tony Lee, Combatives Non-commissioned Officer in Charge for the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. “For the last three and a half months our Soldiers have been training every day, eight hours a day, to make it here.”
The tournament kicked off with medical checks and weigh-ins July 25, and the first round of fighting started the following day.
“We start out with grappling,” explained Staff Sgt. Alex Mestre, an instructor assigned to 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army Combatives School. “It’s all about positions and holds.”
After hundreds of bouts, the winning fighters moved on to day two, and a new set of rules.
“Intermediate rules allow punches to the body, slaps to the head, and kicking,” said Mestre.
With the finals one day closer, fighters gave it their all for the chance to earn a championship bout in the fabled octagon.
Saturday the field house was transformed with a full light show, thumping music and spectators surrounding the eight-sided ring.
“Advanced rules are similar to a Mixed Martial Arts bout,” said Mestre. “The only differences are the fighters can’t spike their opponents on their head, strike the back of the head, or use knees for blows to the face.”
The team representing Fort Stewart, Ga., and the 3rd Infantry Division, spent the months leading to this tournament training in hopes of bettering their third place finish at the 2011 tourney. They fought hard and finished the 2012 tournament in second, narrowly losing to the three-time champions from Fort Hood by a margin of 21 points.
For the competitors, the road to the tournament is about more than one week of bouts.
“It was the 06-07 time frame, I was in Iraq,” said Spc. Nathaniel Freeman, the 2012 Heavyweight Champion, 1st Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. “I had a gentleman pull a knife and almost stab me with it. If it wasn’t for combatives, I wouldn’t have been able to keep myself disengaged, disarm him, and take him down without hurting myself or him.”
The skills honed while training extend beyond combat.
“With the Modern Army combatives Program, it teaches combat along with teaching you to be healthy and be safe,” said Freeman. “The longer you keep working at it, it clears any doubt in the back of your head about your ability to complete the mission.”
With a solid second place finish, the Marne team is already looking forward to next year.
“We want to build on all this hard work and keep the program strong,” said Lee. “We will be back next year at Fort Carson, Colo., ready to bring home the trophy.”