Needing to bench press 315 pounds one time in the final "bench-off" for the title at the Gunslinger Strongman Competition, Spc. Travis E. Dobson, of Long Beach, Calif., pumped out an extra four repetitions, March 1, 2010.

"He is a strong Soldier, full of stamina," said 1st Sgt. Derek Q. Bazile, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion "Gunslingers," 377th Field Artillery Regiment, an element of the 17th Fires Brigade deployed to Contingency Operating Base Basra. The competition was held at the Gunslinger Gym at Camp Allenby, the battalion's compound.

Bazile said Dobson, who played semi-pro football before joining the Army, is a Soldier in his battery.

"Originally we only had five people sign up," Bazile said. "But, in the end, we had 16 competitors - we had some walk-ons. But, that is good." More than 25 Soldiers and civilians attended the event to watch and cheer-on the competitors.

One Soldier, who wanted to compete but could not because of another obligation, was Sgt. Maj. Garret L. Spencer, the 1st Bn., 377th FAR operations sergeant major, Bazile said. Spencer was there to lend support at the contest opening and demonstrated the perfect bench press technique for the competitors.

"He'll compete next time. I guarantee it," Bazile said.

It is also guaranteed that the battalion sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel S. Moriarty, and the battery executive officer, 1st Lt. Daniel S. Hunt, would participate in the next competition, which he expects to host in April, he said.

There were three primary events, the bench press, the squat and the dead lift, and the Soldiers were broken up into the three weight classes: under 180 pounds, under 200 pounds and under 240 pounds.

The fourth and final event was the bench-off, which, like the squat and the dead lift, was a one-off elimination match forcing competitors to execute a single repetition at each ascending weight level until all but one had dropped out.

"The bench press is normally the dominant factor in the gym. Plus, this being the month of the NFL Combine, we decided to go with the bench press at 225. We started at 225, because that is the weight most NFL scouts are looking for, and it's the strength that the Army bases our strength off of," Bazile said.

In the 225-pound bench press for the 180-pound class, Edwards won with 12 repetitions, in the 200-pound class, Dobson won with 20 repetitions, and in the 240-pound class, Gawronski won with 28 repetitions.

After declaring Dobson the overall winner, Bazile awarded him the grand prize: a camcorder. Spc. Nealy D. Edwards, 17th FiB, and Staff Sgt. Jay P. Gawronski, who won in their own weight classes, each received an Army digital camouflage-patterned 17th FiB backpack, and all competitors received Gunslinger tee-shirts.

During the squat competition, each competitor starts with a barbell on the back of his neck and along his shoulders, "squats" from a standing position, and then returns to a standing position.
"A Soldier needs to use his legs," Bazile said.

The winners of the squat event - Edwards, Dobson and Gawronski - each executed a single rep at 465 pounds.

"I raised it up to 495, but nobody could do it, so we had to dial it down," Bazile said.

For the dead lift, the competitor lifts the barbell from a hunched start and curls it over his knees as he stands up straight.

"It's all about form and keeping your back straight and using your knees," Bazile said. "Knees to hip, then rock the back out."

The winners of the dead lift - also Edwards, Dobson and Gawronski - were the night's Strongman "Troika". But, these were not easy victories.

In the 180-pound class, Spc. Bobby G. Fowler, also of the 1st Bn., 377th FAR, was chasing Edwards all night.

In the dead lift, he came the closest to beating Edwards, matching the winner's single rep of 360 pounds, but unable to pull 365.

"I will be back. I know what to do now," Fowler said.

The event is a good way for Soldiers to learn their own limitations, Bazile said.

"During a deployment, a lot of Soldiers use weightlifting to pass the time and enhance their strength," he said. "Events like this one tell the Soldiers where they are compared to their goals and aspirations."

In April, three new events will be included, Bazile said. In addition to bench pressing on an incline and decline bench, there will be a straight-bar curling event.

Although the event was open to all Soldiers, the first sergeant said he could not convince any of the female Soldiers he sees at the gym to compete this time.

"There were three or four female Soldiers who told me they will compete in the next competition," he said.

In the post-competition crosstalk, Edwards put out that, because Dobson was in a heavier weight class, he was staking his own title claim: "Pound-for-pound, I am the strongest man."

It will all be resolved in April when the next competition is held, Bazile said. Until then, Dobson is the strongest man on COB Basra.

"He took on all comers," Bazile said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16