USAG HUMPHREYS, South Korea -- There was a high level of excitement and anticipation in the air as the combatants warmed up and prepared themselves for the first 501st Military Intelligence Brigade combatives tournament, on Oct. 23.
The tournament kicked off with 22 competitors, ranging from the rank of private to captain, all hoping to be crowned the winner of the 2019 Red Dragon Royal Rumble Combatives.
Staff Sgt. Elijah Fairs, 524th MI Battalion schools and special projects noncommissioned officer (NCO), noted the biggest obstacles to the tournament was getting everyone who wanted to compete level one combatives certified in time for the tournament.
He explained that with the busy work schedules throughout the brigade not everyone was able to attend the classes. To remedy this, Fairs conducted two week-long combatives courses and a few additional half-day classes to enable more participation in the tournament.
"I enjoyed watching, not only some crazy good fights and good submissions, but especially [watching] the Soldiers I trained using the fundamentals of what they were taught in order to achieve the mount, in order to get their chokes in, and watching everyone in the crowd supporting them and getting excited for these fights," said level two certified combatives instructor," said Fairs.
In the open weight class, level-one certified combatives tournament competitors faced double elimination to determine who would advance to the finals. The mix of Soldiers competing also included two female competitors, Pfc. Melita Blue, an intelligence analyst, and Pfc. Dora Arzabala, a religious affairs specialist, both from Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment, 524th Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion, 501st MI Brigade.
Each competitor had to complete between five and eight, two-round matches. Fighters were awarded points for achieving the dominant position and for reversing positions. The winner of the match was determined when one of the fighters was forced to submit, or if both fighters lasted through till the end of the second round, the competitor with the most points won the match. In all matches leading up to the finals, only grappling was allowed.
Pfc. Brandon Brooks, a human intelligence collector, assigned to Alpha Company, 532nd MI Battalion, expressed what helped him the most.
"I think the thing that helped me the most was the gauntlet, because it helps with your stamina. I went versus everyone in the combatives course," said Brooks. "I had one 30 second break, it shows you how to hang on when you are tired, when you want to quit, because I rolled for 25 minutes. At that point you have to dig deep; it's not skill it's heart."
During the final fights striking was permitted to the upper body. Competitors donned headgear and fingerless boxing gloves, to still allow them to grapple, and stepped up to the challenge.
In the end, Pfc. Ricardo Penunuri, a military police officer at Headquarters, Headquarters Service Company, 719th MI Battalion, and a former San Diego, California, police officer, was able to force Brooks to submit and was named the ultimate winner of the tournament.
Penunuri noted what he liked the most about the tournament was "the camaraderie, the sportsmanship; you know, bringing everybody together."
The tournament finished up in late in the day with Col. Jamie Walsh, 501st MI Brigade commander, presiding over the award ceremony, presenting trophies and congratulating the winners. He also presented Fairs with a brigade coin in recognition for all of his hard work planning, organizing and executing a successful tournament.
Overall winners for the Brigade:
1st place - Pfc. Ricardo Penunuri, a cryptologic linguist, Alpha Company, 532nd MI Battalion.
2nd Place - Pfc. Brandon Brooks, a human intelligence collector, Alpha Company, 532nd MI Battalion.
3rd Place - Pfc. Terrald Singleton, human resources specialist, Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment, 524th MI Battalion.
4th place - Sgt. Brandon Ramos-Pacanza, a cryptologic linguist, Alpha Company, 532nd MI Battalion.
The 501st Military Intelligence Brigade provides indications and early warning of actions by opposing forces who could threaten the tense, but stable, peace in the Republic of Korea. In the event of hostilities, the brigade's mission shifts to providing combined, multi-discipline intelligence and force protection support to the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, the CFC Ground Component Command and their subordinate units.