FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Sixteen Soldiers competed in the 2009 Fort Belvoir Combatives Tournament at Wells Field House Thursday. The event's winners earned a trip to the Military District of Washington combatives tournament in July.

Lt. Col. Kevin McKenna, Headquarters Battalion garrison commander who has helped spearhead much of the combatives program push at Belvoir, felt the tournament helped highlight the importance of combatives.

"Competitions like this provide site awareness to the Belvoir community," he said. "People realize the Soldiers are conducting training and that our program is alive and well."

According to McKenna, as a commander, he is required to conduct combatives training as part of the Modern Army Combatives Program.

Staff Sgt. Ronnell Foster, a Level II-certified combatives Soldier, participated in last year's All-Army tournament in Fort Benning, Ga. Foster said the competition opened with basic submission techniques but progressed into full mixed martial arts-style combat.

Additionally, Foster was one of only two Belvoir Soldiers who competed, while other installations sent teams of several members.

McKenna said he hopes to send a more complete team in the future. "We just fell upon it last year and didn't have time to build a big team to compete," he said. "This year, we're sending our winners to compete at the MDW tournament, then using August and September to train for All-Army in October."

Foster sees the benefit of introducing combatives to Belvoir and attributes much of its success to McKenna's persistance. "If it wasn't for Col. McKenna, it wouldn't have been that big," he said. "He's been a huge asset to the program. I'd been here for two years before

[McKenna] got here, and there was never any kind of combatives training here. To see he's done all of this from what was essentially nothing is incredible.

"This is the kind of stuff we really need to know," he continued. "If you're in combat and you run out of ammo against the enemy, what do you do' Call 'timeout' while you reload' You don't have time for that. This saves Soldiers' lives."

McKenna agreed. "It's useful because it gives you an opportunity to grab someone, not just shoot. If you're fighting the enemy, you need to have several methods to stop their attack."

Sgt. 1st Class Troy Dennison and Cpl. Justin Kaiser, Old Guard Soldiers from Fort Myer, came to support Belvoir's tournament.

Myer also has a developing program, Dennison said, thanks to great MWR support, but he can also appreciate what each installation can offer the other. "Col. McKenna has been on board with us for so long, and it's great," Dennison said. "I can help him and he can help us. It's not just about the Old Guard at Fort Myer."

Dennison said the tournament also helps establish esprit de corps, as well as a specific champion. "Everyone knows their unit's best runner and their best shooter," he said with a grin, "but who knows the best fighter' If you establish a champion, it means you have someone to take it from."

Editor's note: The next session of Level I combatives training begins June 4. For more information, contact Sgt. Emma Young at