FORT HOOD, Texas - During the III Corps combatives tournament last summer, Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Jones began brainstorming ways to start a similar competition at his unit.

"The goal was to develop a battalion-level competition that would produce the widest margin of fighters to increase the odds of success for the 4th Sustainment Brigade in future post-wide tournaments," said Jones, the battalion maintenance officer for the 553rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.

"I also wanted the program to support combatives training at our companies to help ensure that each Soldier in the Leopard Battalion becomes certified in hand-to-hand combat," he said.

His vision became a reality last month as the Leopards organized a Modern Army Combatives Tournament at the Kieschnick physical fitness center. The competition was open to all Soldiers within the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

It took months of training for many Soldiers in the unit to get to a state-of-readiness for the unit's first combatives tournament.

"I have improved my combatives education on the point scale," said Spc. Shawn Gillingham, the light-weight champion from the 289th Quartermaster Company and native of Albany, N.Y. "I've learned how to relax, and I'm definitely ready for any competition."

Beyond the text-book training, each fighter prepared in his or her own way to find that zone each fighter feels before battling their opponent.

"I increased the intensity of my training with cardiovascular exercises and martial arts," said Spc. April Flores, from the 289th Quartermaster Company and a Garden Grove, Calif. native.

"My extensive physical training and the unit's new combatives program really helped me prepare for my fly-weight opponents," she said.

"I was a three-time Arizona State wrestling champion during my high school career," said Cpl. Carlos Villa, of the 157th Quartermaster Company. "My preparation began internally, and as a result, my skills roll out without delay or hesitation."

The differences in training techniques may vary, but they all have the same goal in mind.

"The program builds Soldier's confidence," said Jones. "It even develops their leadership abilities, their battle mind-set, and it acts as a stress reliever."

"I hope that junior enlisted Leopards can expand their horizons and be encouraged to socialize within the combatives program," said Sgt. Steven Pagan, who volunteered to help coordinate the tournament from the battalion's Headquarters and Headquarters Company.

"These participants, no matter what their experience level is, gave it their all," he said. "And after they have battled, each one of them seems to stand back in awe of their accomplishments."

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