Combatants off to Army tournament
September 30, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla. -- A group of Soldiers left Fort Sill the last week of September intent to combat and come out victorious over a host of adversaries equally determined to subdue their opponents.
The Soldiers are bound for the Army Invitational Combatives Championship, a three-day tournament at Fort Benning, Ga. It's composed of four rounds of fights, with each combatant able to earn points toward victories, but Sgt. 1st Class Matt Gallagher, Fort Sill Combatives School NCOIC, insists winning by points will not be the team's objective.
"The mantra we teach all combatives students is to finish the fight," he said. "We'll take a victory by points, if that's what it comes down to, but no one wants to see that kind of outcome."
The burly Gallagher, who will test his skills in the tourney, said the object of combatives isn't to prepare Soldiers for competition, but to deal with adversaries on the battlefield. For that reason, winning by submission is the goal.
"For one thing, winning by submission gives the team more points, but in real life there is no point system for who wins a fight," he said. "You have to go in with the intent to subdue the opponent; it's the only way."
Capt. Jason Norwood, officer in charge of the combatives school, will lead the team of 14 fighters and three coaches. With the potential of 30-40 teams competing, he said if Fort Sill finishes in the top 10, the team could see this as a successful outing.
"There are no berths on an all-Army team at stake. This is solely a tournament to determine the best combatives fighter at each weight class," he said.
Norwood said the Army views competitions as an optimal way to instill excellence in Soldiers, because anything they compete in they will train harder to be better at it. Whether pitting strength and endurance against fellow Soldiers or a standard for the physical training test or seeing who is a dead-eye marksman on the firing range, competition provides Soldiers the stage to show their expertise.
"In this instance, with nearly every post sending at least one team, some sending several, determining the best combatives Soldiers happens at a larger venue that's all," he said.
This year's team is:
Maj. John Mills, 1st Battalion, 6th ADA
Capt. Jason Norwood, Fires Center of Excellence
1st Lt. Amanda Rowse, 6th Air Defense Artillery
Warrant Officer Adrian Portugal, FCoE
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Gallagher, FCoE
Staff Sgt. Bradley Lawson, Oklahoma Army Reserves
Staff Sgt. Justin Martin, 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery
Staff Sgt. Anthony Rubio, 75th Fires Brigade
Staff Sgt. Neal Lang, FCoE
Sgt. Frederick Walker, 4th Battalion, 3rd ADA
Sgt. Donald Kirchner, Headquarters, Headquarters Battery, 31st ADA
Spc. John Florez, 529th Signal Company.
In addition to the fighters a trio of coaches: 1st Sgt. Anthony Wyatt, Sgt. 1st Class Andy Pierce and Sgt. Eric Kelly will go along.
Norwood added as lead instructors at the combatives school, he and Gallagher are interested to see what other posts are doing and how they are training their Soldiers to be more effective and lethal in what he calls a life-saving technique.
"We complete the weapons system; if you want Soldiers behind and in front of you in any type of combat environment, you want to send them here first," he said. "Combatives training gets them ready for the rigors of what could happen in a worse case scenario; I would want the guys I lead ready for that."
If outcome based training was the intent of this competition, Norwood said there's only one outcome worth talking about. That outcome is what drives his game plan every time he enters a fight.
"I tell people all the time, 'that guy isn't tougher than me; I have to be tougher than him,'" he said. "I can't lose, because I don't know what losing is I know what winning is."
Each combatant will begin with grappling in one six-minute preliminary fight. Those who win move onto the quarter then semi-finals, each of which consists of one 10-minute fight that includes open hand strikes to the face and closed fist strikes to the body. Having weeded out the other competitors, the two finalists meet and decide the championship in three five-minute rounds.
Gallagher said Fort Sill is riding a wave of recent success in the combatives championship. The last three years the team has returned with top 10 honors. He said this is due to the diligence and extra effort Soldiers put in at the combatives school during their free time to become the best at their weight classes. He added this team, though short-handed in a couple weight classes has the talent to perhaps finish as high as top five overall.
Both instructors certainly lead from the front. Norwood said four two-hour practices are held daily beginning at 6 a.m. with the last session not ending until 8 p.m. He said the flexibility in training allows Soldiers to improve together, and instructors can key in on individual needs of each fighter so they can target training to improve fighters in the areas they need the most improvement in.
Although the school primarily focuses on Soldier training, in this day of joint training and operations, Norwood said the facility is open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 6-8 p.m., and everyone is welcome to come in and train.
"If you have a DoD card, you can walk through this door no questions asked," he said.
The combatives instructors said they have received a lot of support throughout the chain of command. Norwood said Maj. Gen. David Halverson and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Smith, FCoE and Fort Sill commanding general and CSM respectively, have both been most supportive of the team's efforts to represent Fort Sill at the championships.