FORT HOOD, Texas - The 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, is full of soldiers whose jobs are to help and support a larger entity.
One Soldier of the 615th ASB is unique however in his role in supporting Fort Hood’s Combatives team as well.
A Fort Worth, Texas native, Sgt. James Bruner, an AH-64D Apache helicopter armament, electrical and avionics systems repairer for B Company, 615th ASB, has yet again helped the Fort Hood Combatives Team with a victory in this year’s 2012 Army Combatives Championship at the Abrams Physical Fitness Center here, July 28.
Bruner’s leadership has noted that his career so far has been one of dedication and drive for those things he holds important.
“I’ve never seen the man unable to complete any task that was set before him,” Staff Sgt. Nicholas Arsenault said. “He’s a hard worker and very dedicated to whatever he sets out to do.”
Arsenault is Bruner’s section sergeant within the Armament Platoon and has known Bruner almost the entirety of Bruner’s career, having been stationed with him in South Korea, Fort Bragg, N.C., and now here.
While they were stationed in South Korea, Bruner won the 8th Army Wrestling tournament in his weight class. At this time Bruner was also introduced to Army Combatives.
“I wrestled in high school and being on the All-Army Wrestling team was always one of my goals,” Bruner said.
However, he came to have a greater appreciation for combatives when he was introduced to the sport. He liked that there were some similarities in the two sports, yet he also liked the increased competitiveness of combatives as well as what he believes to be a real need for training in combatives due to the close-quarters nature of today’s fight abroad, explained Bruner.
“When I first started in combatives there were no weight classes,” he said. “I think it was when I beat someone more than 100 pounds heavier than me in my first tournament by having better technique and submitting him that I really started getting into combatives.”
According to Arsenault, he’s been a tenacious fighter ever since.
“I took Army Combatives Level 1 and Level 2 when we were both at Bragg, and I thought I was pretty good at the time,” said Arsenault. “But he still kicked my butt.”
“I outweigh him by at least 40 pounds, but I’m still no match for him on the mat,” he added.
Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Thorton, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Fort Hood Combatives team, Headquarters Support Company, III Corps Special Troops Battalion, met Bruner at the Fort Hood Tournament last year when they competed against each other.
“You learn a lot about someone when you fight them,” Thorton said. “After the fight we talked and I learned even more about him.”
Bruner told me all about how he loves his family and the military. He also impressed upon me how much he wanted to represent his unit and how he was determined to work hard at achieving his goals, continued Thorton.
“After that I took Sgt. Bruner under my wing and became a kind of mentor for him,” he said.
Soon after that Thorton had Bruner join the Fort Hood Combatives team and Bruner began training for last year’s Army Combatives Championship.
The 1st ACB was good enough to let me deploy three months later than the rest of the troops so I could finish my training, and represent the unit and Fort Hood in last year’s Army Combatives Championship, said Bruner.
“I did pretty well,” he said. “I placed fifth overall [in my weight class].”
However, even after doing so well in the championship, all his thoughts were on re-joining his soldiers out in Afghanistan, said Thorton.
“Actually, he felt guilty because he wasn’t out there,” Thorton added.
It took a few conversations for him to come to terms with the fact that he still had an opportunity to go out there and help his unit by playing a significant role in the deployment with the rest of his unit in Afghanistan, said Thorton.
Bruner did deploy shortly after his participation in the championship, and served in Afghanistan along with the rest of his soldiers until they all re-deployed together back to Fort Hood in June of this year.
It did not take long for Bruner to get back into the swing of things in regards to his combatives training after he got back from Afghanistan.
As soon as he got back, Bruner asked Thorton what he could do to help the team win another championship.
“He knew he was too far behind in the train-up to be able to catch up and compete, however he still wanted to assist the team in any way he could,” said Thorton.
Even though he is just assisting in coaching this year, it’s his experience and teaching which have allowed others from our team to grow and get to a place where they are competing for top ranking in his weight class this year, Thorton added.
Bruner is now hoping to get an instructor position on the Fort Hood Combatives team.
“I learn more everyday with all the talent we have on the team … I just want to continue training, and I want to continue teaching others what I’ve learned so far,” said Bruner.
Thorton might have summed up Bruner best when originally asked what kind of a fighter Bruner is.
“Let’s not talk about Sgt. Bruner as a fighter, let’s talk about him as a good person and a good NCO,” said Thorton.