By James BrabenecSeptember 5, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla., Sept. 5, 2019 -- Sgt. Lamar Parker, 24, an 88M Motor Transport Operator and team leader with the 15th Transportation Company, 100th Brigade Support Battalion, is the kind of Soldier you would hope to be fighting beside if things went from bad to worse rapidly.
Possessing a quiet self-confidence, Parker's smile draws comparison to Matt Damon in the Bourne trilogy of movies. But, unlike that actor's ability to convey what it's like to subdue an opponent, Parker actually did this while maintaining respect for those he faced in the ring.
Though he volunteered to compete in the 75th Field Artillery Brigade's combatives tournament, he was also encouraged to enter as his company lacked an entry in his weight division. As an extra boost of motivation, one of the Soldiers he supervises entered the tourney as well.
"I wanted to enter with him to show him the leader wants to do what you want to do," he said.
At 5 feet, 8 inches and 155 pounds, Parker entered a weight division where all the competitors he faced were bigger than he was. To counter this, he brought an array of martial arts experience that began as a 17-year-old training in ju jitsu in Miami.
Since his arrival at Fort Sill Parker has pursued boxing skills and additional training at a martial arts studio off post and a combatives class he took at the 434th Field Artillery Brigade's fight house. On top of that he added gym time focusing on doing more cross functional fitness and cardiovascular training.
Recognizing that lifting makes you look good, Parker said the most important muscle in your body is your heart.
"You got guys who can bench 300 pounds but can't go two rounds in combatives," he said. "For me cardio played a big part in my success; a lot of guys gassed out."
In an event designed to foster esprit de corps and boost morale, combatives seems the perfect choice.
"When you get into the mixed martial arts it's all about respect. He's not my opponent, he's my battle buddy. It's all about respecting the guy who's in the ring with you," said Parker.
He added Soldiers who train in combatives develop a sense of camaraderie that carries over from the sport into all aspects of life.
"We're not there to hurt each other; we're just there to better each other and hone our skills," said Parker, who added after this form of competition it's like you know the other man better.
Parker spoke of observing other bouts looking to assess each opponent he might face. "If I see something more than once, I know that's your game plan, that you're one-dimensional, and that's all you have."
Though he won a couple bouts, Parker said he retained his respect, "I didn't showboat or go like 'I beat you.' Every man I competed against, afterward we hugged it out," he said.
Along with sharing words of encouragement, he said competitors exchanged phone numbers intent to train together.
"You teach me, I teach you, we all have different skill sets," he said.
Parker added one competitor he faced displayed kickboxing skills that were new to him. "It's all about networking and getting better as a whole."
He tasted defeat in his third bout, getting knocked into the loser's bracket of the double elimination tournament. He said each bout consisted of a six-minute period unless neither competitor could subdue the other, the match went to sudden death, where once the match went to the floor, whoever gained the dominant position was declared the winner.
Of that first loss he said, "It felt like three seconds" and then it was over as Parker tapped out after getting put in a choke hold. But, he learned from his loss.
"I knew he was energetic, experienced, and knew what he was doing," said Parker.
After the loss he met with his coach, 1st Sgt. Justin Vance, who assured Parker he was the better fighter and not to dwell on the loss. Parker said Vance told him to get his opponent on the ground then listen to his instructions.
Gaining the finals bout, Parker said the second match ended in sudden death with him taking the dominant position.
"I realized he didn't like being on his back," he said.
Parker sought to gain the upper position and rest his weight on his opponent to help tire him out. At the same time he looked for an opening to exploit, but it never came. Instead, the two went to sudden death again where Parker got the dominant position and won the tourney.
Of the runner-up, his skills, and determination, Parker said, "He's a great competitor, he's a warrior."
Vance said Parker has a great temperament and is eager to learn.
"He's definitely dedicated, the kind of guy who wants to improve every day and goes out of his way to learn his craft whether on or off post," said Vance of Headquarters and Headquarters Support, 434th FAB. He also oversees the installation combatives program taught at the 434th's fight house where he and Parker first met. "I think younger NCOs, like Parker and his work schedule, could find reasons to not train, but he still finds a way to do it."
Vance said combatives is a good thing for Soldiers as it puts a sense of warrior spirit in them. He said it's a sport that's very demanding, both physically and mentally.
Parker elaborated on the practical application of this training.
"It's very important, every Soldier should know how to defend him or herself," he said. "You develop a certain type of confidence when you know, 'I don't need a weapon. If this goes bad, I always have my hands and my feet.'"
Beginning his ascent into the NCO ranks, Parker now influences the Soldiers he leads. He said he's the type of person who likes to let his actions speak for him, rather than just tell someone what he can or cannot do. He believes his Soldiers can see being a sergeant in the Army isn't just a job for him.
"I do it because I love it, and I love mentoring," he said.