By 1st Lt. Vanessa Dudley, 1st Battalion, 361st Engineer Regiment, 5th Armored Brigade, Division West Public AffairsOctober 21, 2013
FORT BLISS, Texas - Five Soldiers from the 5th Armored Brigade, Division West recently participated in the semi-annual Fort Bliss Fall Border Rumble boxing smoker at the Stout Physical Fitness Center, here.
The event featured intramural bouts between Soldiers followed by USA boxing sanctioned bouts between local boxing stars. Although only two 5th AR Soldiers were able to fight during the smoker due to a lack of contenders, the team that was formed a month prior, was a story in itself.
Master Sgt. Marshall Christmas, the 5th AR's Unit Ministry Team noncommissioned officer-in-charge, was approached by Capt. Sam Ku, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander for 2nd Battalion, 363rd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Black Scorpion, 5th Armored Brigade.
Ku, having seen a printed flyer for the event from the Fort Bliss Morale Welfare Recreation Sports office, heard from his battalion commander that Christmas had been a part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.
"Capt. Ku asked me initially if I wanted to coach him, but I shied away from the idea the first couple of times he asked," said Christmas. "Eventually I agreed to give him a little time which, a few days later, turned into a team of five Soldiers that I ended up coaching and implementing a training circuit with."
Christmas was a hidden jewel, having vast amounts of experience and numerous titles to his name. Initially coming in the Army as a tank mechanic, Christmas' goal was to be a boxer.
Starting on the Fort Hood Boxing Team in 1997, he won the All-Army Boxing Championship and went on to win gold at the Armed Forces Boxing Championship in 2001. Eventually making it into the WCAP, Christmas also went to the Olympic trials in 2000, won Silver four times in the National championships and coached the All-Army boxing team in 2005. Re-classing to a chaplains assistant in 2008, Christmas thought he had left the world of boxing behind.
In early August, a month before the fight, Christmas started holding boxing practices in the combatives tent on McGregor Range, N.M. Staff Sgt. Malissa Ebeling, a five-year observer controller/trainer with TF Scorpion, never tried boxing before this event.
"It seemed like when the bell rung, everything I had learned during our training went out the window," said Ebeling. "I could hear Master Sgt. Christmas in the corner yelling and I just kept on hitting."
Ebeling went on to win the bout and even said she would be willing to do it again in the spring of next year. Staff Sgt. Alonzo Tohtsonie, an observer controller/trainer with TF Black Scorpion, also fought that night.
"It was a good experience being in the ring although it felt like I had earplugs in and couldn't hear a thing," said Tohtsonie. "I don't plan to do it again because I wanted to experience what boxing was all about but now it's time to try something else."
For those on the team that weren't able to fight, the amount of exercise and training added up within that month with many on the team losing up to ten pounds of weight or more.
Overall, the night was deemed a success as other Soldiers from 1-361st, the 5th AR commander and command sergeant major attended to cheer on their fellow Soldiers.
"It's a task just to get in the ring and it takes a lot of courage and strength just to get in there and fight," said Master Sgt. Christmas. "My hat goes off to all the fighters from that night."
Although Christmas may be done as a boxer, trainer, champion, or world-class athlete, his meaningful lessons on boxing will stay with his latest boxing team for life. With the spring boxing rumbler coming soon, perhaps those lessons will be put to good use sooner rather than later.