FORT BENNING, Ga. -- The 2018 Lacerda Cup All Army Combatives Competition April 15 to 17 showcased the Army's readiness to engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat, said Staff Sgt. David Punch.

Competitors went head-to-toe against each other in individual matches and also engaged in team events, including removing a suspect from a vehicle and clearing enemy from a simulated building.

Punch, who took the first-place individual trophy in the cruiserweight class, said all Soldiers going through basic combat training now receive about a 20-hour block of combatives instruction.

Combatives, he explained, is a mix of various martial arts, including judo, boxing, sambo, muay thai or kick boxing, wrestling and jujitsu.

Besides giving Soldiers the ability to successfully take down enemy combatants in close fighting, combatives also improves physical, mental and emotional fitness, Punch said.

Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Miller, the heavyweight champion, encouraged Soldiers to continue their combatives training throughout their Army career. Some installations, he said, offer combatives training.

Both Punch and Miller are with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, Fort Hood, Texas.

Sgt. 1st Class Corey Coffelt, operations non-commissioned officer for combatives here at Fort Benning, said that the value of mixing the various martial arts is that each has its place when dealing with an enemy combatant, depending on the situation.

Besides improving Soldiers' mental and physical ability, Coffelt said it improves resiliency. He provided an example, using himself.

After deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan for a total of four times as a 19D cavalry scout, he now has post-traumatic stress disorder. "Everyone in combat has PTSD to a certain degree," he said.

Participating regularly in combatives has lowered his stress levels and even high blood pressure, he said, and likely saved his life.

Combatives has also resulted in lives saved in combat, he said, citing a personal example in Iraq. His squad was clearing a building when a fellow Soldier was grabbed by an insurgent in hiding. That Soldier used his combatives skills to take the man down and deliver him as a prisoner.

CLASSES AT BENNING

There are four courses taught at the Combatives Center at Fort Benning. Soldiers Army-wide are invited to attend:

-- Combatives Train the Trainer -- Skill level 1: a 40-hour, basic, one-week course.

-- Combatives Train the Trainer -- Skill level 2: an 80-hour, two-week course that builds on the basic course. The Army's goal is to have one skill-level 2 trainer per company, Coffelt said.

-- Combatives Train the Trainer -- Skill level 3: a 160-hour, four-week course that builds on the skills taught in the previous two courses. Coffelt said the Army's goal is to have one skill level 3 trainer per battalion.

-- Combatives Train the Trainer -- Skill level 4: a 160-hour, four week course designed to provide master trainers. The Army's goal is to have one skill level 4 trainer per brigade, he said.

Besides the four courses, combatives workouts are held weekly at 5 a.m. on Fort Benning for Soldiers, family members and even for retirees, some of whom volunteer to instruct.

More than half of the attendees, Coffelt said, are spouses who take the classes before going to work and/or packing the kids off to school.

He credits 13 instructors with making the Combatives program at Fort Benning a success.

OVERALL TEAM WINNERS

The top-place team winner was 3rd Cavalry Regiment and second place went to 82nd Airborne Division.

INDIVIDUAL 1st PLACE WINNERS

Bantamweight: Capt. Ariel Espinoza-Levy, Phantom Warrior Academy commander, III Corps, Fort Hood, Texas

Flyweight: Sgt. Adrian Ghisoin, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, Fort Hood

Lightweight: Sgt. Tyrell Hill

Welterweight: Pfc. Devon Cannon

Middleweight: Staff Sgt. Adekunle Okusaga, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood

Cruiserweight: Staff Sgt. David Punch, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood

Light Heavyweight: Spc. Justin Vargas, III Corps, Fort Hood

Heavyweight: Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Miller, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division