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    Gladiators embody 'Esprit de Corps'



    Story by Spc. Amanda Baker 

    1st Special Forces Command (Airborne)

    “Oohs” and “Ow” echoed from the crowd as Soldiers kicked, punched and grappled vigorously at the 2nd Annual Gladiator Challenge in the Special Forces Group (Airborne) Indoor Firing Range at JBLM, on Thursday, April 6.

    Fighters represented the Army’s Esprit de Corps as they braved the octagon in front of an audience of approximately 100 guests at the challenge, an event which has grown from the previous year.

    “This thing has blossomed,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Shane Shorter, Command Sgt. Maj. of 1st SFG (A) and initiator for the 1st Annual Gladiator Challenge. “The fighters come here to put it all on the line in front of these guys, gals and me, and that takes a lot of guts.”

    This particular event was meaningful to Shorter, because this was his final fight before transferring to a position at headquarters.

    Shorter has seen the fighters deal with the knockouts and train to get back up to fight even harder. He revived the program to suit family members and their Soldiers’ schedules during the evening time when everyone could attend.

    “I wanted to build this program from the ground-up,” said Shorter. “None of these fights have been mandatory, but I wanted to get people interested in it. I want people sitting in the crowd and say, ‘Wow! That was really cool. I want to do that.’”

    The combative program, Shorter said in an interview, is adjunct to combat simulation training. Techniques and movements become engraved in the Soldiers’ bodies as they prepare for upcoming fights, such as the Gladiator Challenge post tournament, which ultimately compliments their simulation training.

    “Some of the guys might get knocked the hell out,” the event initiator added. “But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Those guys are brave for getting in here. I’m proud of every single one of them.”

    Another proud member in the audience was Jay Palacios, 1st SFG (A) Combative Instructor. Palacios, an instructor for 11 years, fought professionally and received his black belt in Jiu Jitsu. His experience and expertise has enhanced the service members’ combative training.

    “It’s not just about fighting,” said Palacios. “It’s about being efficient and expanding that peripheral, and not getting fixated on a specific object or hesitating to get to that object.”

    Teaching these lessons to his students and witnessing them grow in their technique has inspired Palacios beyond his class.

    “They inspire me to become a better person, a better fighter,” he said. “And I want to thank all of the guys in the group for allowing me to share the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years in martial arts, and to be a part of the family.”

    Palacios and his family of fighters gathered in the range on Thursday to warm-up for the Challenge that they were eagerly anticipating.

    The event kicked-off with the traditional National Anthem and Invocation by the Chaplain, followed by an opening speech by Shorter and a comical skit between emcee, Master Sgt. George Gentry, and Sgt. Maj. Robert Wadleigh whose daughter, the 2015 and 2016 JBLM 125 pound Division Champion, Isis Wadleigh, was also present.

    The “Red” and “Blue” fighters were welcomed one by one into the octagon, strutting to theme songs of their choice. Seven fights led up to the main event. Each fight consisted of three rounds, with three minutes per round.

    Challengers came from different battalions and military occupational specialties. Regardless of where each fighter came from, they remained focused on beating their opponent.

    “I live my life one round at a time,” said Sgt. Preston Yates, from 3rd Battalion. “For those three minutes or less, I’m free. Nothing else matters.”

    He wrestled throughout high school and has been practicing Jiu Jitsu for two years, which he believes helped to sharpen his technique. Yates participated and dominated the third fight of the night.

    The crowd roared as the main event between Staff Sgt. Joshua Jonathan “The Windmill” Vanderstigheo, from 2nd Battalion, and Isaiah Sanchez, from 4th Battalion, approached.

    After three full rounds, Vanderstigheo won by the judges unanimous decision.

    “I fought really well, and all of the training really helped,” he said following his victory.

    The Challenge closed with a group photo of the fighters and the traditional Ballad of the Green Beret, filling the room with pride, strength and unity; a feeling that Shorter aimed to achieve upon launching the tournament last year.

    “Those guys mean a lot to me,” he said following the final fight. “No one was a loser tonight.”



    Date Taken: 04.06.2017
    Date Posted: 04.12.2017 16:07
    Story ID: 230051

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