Sill Soldiers prepare for All Army combatives
July 12, 2012
Fourteen Fort Sill Soldiers have been eating, sleeping and breathing combatives for three weeks straight, and they have three more to go.
They're sharpening their Modern Army Combatives Program skills in preparation for the Army Combatives Championship (formerly known as the All Army Combatives Championship) at Fort Hood, Texas, July 25-28.
"Imagine eight hours a day working out. It's tough. We do everything from lifting weights to circuit training, cardio, drills, working on techniques, sparring, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, jiu jitsu, to judo," said Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Mejil, A Battery, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Air Defense Artillery. "Although the training is tiring and I'm bumped and bruised, I'm working harder than the other person that's at any other post or team out there."
During the four-day tournament, Soldiers will compete in different rounds for a chance to get to the finals. The preliminary round is strictly grappling. If the Soldiers win their matches, they move on to the semifinals where they will compete using pankration, or open hand fighting. The championship round is in a cage where they are allowed to use all aspects of MACP to include punching and kicking.
"It's All Army. You've got to earn that spot in the cage," said Spc. Nicholas Baccaire, 31st ADA. "I could possibly have about eight matches before I get to the cage. I want to [get better at my standup] because I plan on making it that far."
Baccaire, like many of his teammates, has been to this level of competition before and after getting a taste, he only want more.
"I never really stopped since last All Army. I've been hitting the gym, coming to open mats, running Level 1 [Combatives], Level 2 [Combatives]. I went to Level 3 and Level 4 after All Army last year so I've just been on go. That's why I feel like I'm ready because I haven't stopped," said Baccaire.
Mejil went through the tournament in 2008. He's returning after a deployment and reclassifying his military occupational specialty.
"I'm pretty confident in my ability and skills, and I've learned a lot with these guys. Last time I did really well, and I believe I'm a way better fighter than I was four years ago."
Mejil will compete in the bantam-weight class, but he said he trains against even the heavyweights.
"We fight everybody. For example, if I get used to fighting somebody bigger it's true that they'll move slower but I'll get used to managing people at a higher weight so when I fight somebody around my weight it won't be as stressful. But, we also fight people at our own weight to maintain our speed and conditioning," said Mejil.
The team trains at different locations on post depending on what they are doing, but the majority is spent inside the Fort Sill Fighthouse. The building is an older warehouse with nothing to offer except four walls and a heated room.
"We've been training hard. That's why we've been training up here in the heat and wrestling around in our jackets. If you can exert this much energy in 110 degrees, imagine if it's 70 degrees in the gym and you're exerting the same amount of energy," said Staff Sgt. Donald Kirchner, Fires Center of Excellence combatives facility.
They may not have a brand new facility, or even professional trainers like some of the other post teams competing, but Kirchner said they pull together their resources and make it work.
"We're well rounded as a team. We don't have a black belt, but we have people that are experienced in jiu jitsu, we've got people who are experienced in wrestling, judo. We just all throw it in the pot. It's a team effort. That's what we pride ourselves on. We do all in-house training."
That being said, Kirchner believes for the teams that are training with professional jiu jitsu martial artists, they are receiving benefits that go beyond the tournament.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with furthering your hand-to-hand skills. In the Army that might help someone when they're downrange."
Just as they would train for combat, these Soldiers are going into each match with one goal in mind: to end the fight.
"I believe if I win or lose it's because I was prepared, not because I showed up and tried to take a chance. It's a good feeling at the end of the day," said Mejil.
"We're just excited. I believe we can be a standout team and represent Fort Sill real well. Hopefully the [commanding general] and post sergeant major will be excited with the outcome," said Kirchner.