By Alyson Hansen and Emily SussmanMarch 3, 2018
Fort Bragg hosted the Armed Forces Combatives Tournament last week. Soldiers stationed all over the world came to compete in the event, which culminated in championship rounds on Saturday. This year, a team tactical component was added to help demonstrate combatives in a real life situation.
Soldier-competitors from Fort Bragg, Fort Campbell, Ky, and Fort Carson, Colo., competed in the team tactical portion of the 2018 Combatives Tournament, Friday.
The team event was held at the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) Close Quarters Combatives Facility, known as the Dojo, Friday.
The addition of a tactical element to the competition reflects the practical application of combatives skills for Soldiers in the real world.
"Everything we do is targeted around tactics and procedures," said Staff Sgt. Trampus Sandidge, tournament director, XVIII Airborne Corps Combatives School.
Master Sgt. Tim Welcher, noncommissioned officer-in-charge at the 3rd SFG (A) Dojo, explained that the word Combatives is not in the dictionary.
Sometimes confused as a martial art, combatives is a tactical response.
"Combatives is where martial arts techniques meet gun fighting tactics," said Welcher.
The facility has a variety of tools for training. For this event competition organizers utilized a shoot house and a red Chevy Blazer.
Welcher told teams during a safety brief, to expect resistance from role players dressed in impact reduction suits.
"They will put all this stress on themselves, even when they are working with compliant people," said Sgt. 1st Class Josh McLean, combatives instructor, 3rd SFG (A).
The role-players, as instructed, maintained compliance throughout the event, but could not respond to verbal commands, simulating language barriers encountered in real-world situations.
Competitors would have to make their instructions clear physically.
"These guys have to be very familiar with putting their hands on somebody and manipulating them, not necessarily to hurt them, but just so they are doing exactly what they need them to do," said Welcher.
Combatives Master Trainers graded the three participating teams on four different categories; combative procedures, escalation of force, security and overall outcome.
The team from Fort Campbell, Ky, placed first. Fort Carson, Colo., placed second and Fort Bragg placed third.
Spc. Benjamin Bourque, Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, chalked the Fort Campbell team's performance up to teamwork.
"We were all pretty comfortable with it, the camaraderie is there … There is a lot of trust and communication going on," said Bourque.
Saturday saw the culmination of the Fort Bragg Armed Forces Combatives Tournament, with 3rd and 4th place bouts happening in the early afternoon and the 1st and 2nd place bouts taking place in the early evening.
Marques Daniels, a retired sergeant from Fort Bragg, spoke to the crowd about combatives. All of the combatives skills have tactical reasons, he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Reuben Lara, 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), spoke about his brother, a competitor stationed at Fort Carson, Colo.
"He's self-aware about his athleticism. He's been very focused on his skill rather than his physical prowess … I'm not surprised that he's in the championship round," said Lara.
Sgt. Kenny Trowers, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, XVIII Airborne Corps, spoke after his win against Spc. Michael Stone, 2nd Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
"It was all in the preparation. To repeat as champion is very difficult, especially this second time around because you have expectations," he said.
Sixteen bouts in all, took place on Saturday, with eight Fort Bragg Soldiers competing.
In the Heavyweights 206 pounds to 226 pounds bout, Staff Sgt. Antwon Jones, 5th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, tapped out in the first round with 45 seconds remaining on the clock. After the bout was finished, he shook his competitors hand with a smile and congratulated him on his win.
The tournament competitors displayed good sportsmanship, and even sat down and talked to each other after their fights, sharing stories and pizza throughout the evening.