By Vince Little, The BayonetMarch 23, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. - For the first time since its inception in 2005, the U.S. Army Combatives Tournament will be staged somewhere other than Fort Benning.
This year's installment is headed to Fort Hood, Texas, which was given the opportunity to host after III Corps won the Lacerda Cup here last fall as team champion. The 2011 All-Army showdown is set for July 20-23.
"Whether we do it at Fort Hood or Fort Benning or wherever, it still remains the Army Combatives Championship," said Staff Sgt. Iako Kalili, chief trainer for the Army Combatives School. "For us, it's just another event. We're just doing it somewhere else this time."
He said the move isn't permanent and venue decisions would be re-evaluated annually.
"The idea is, you win it, you host it," said III Corps combatives director Kris Perkins. "We're super excited. We think the Army will be impressed with what we have available at Fort Hood. It'll be a great change and a great tournament."
The event remains under the direction of the Combatives School, which is responsible for functions such as setup, bracketing and providing referees, Kalili said. Logistical support comes from the post.
"We're just trying to share the wealth a little and let each post, if they want it, have a chance of hosting," he said. "We hope it gives the commanders more incentive to want to win the tournament. If they want their guys to win it and they're willing to push the training and support, that's awesome. We'll all be looking pretty if every post commander is doing that. ... The push for the training needs to be high."
Perkins credited Fort Hood's chain of command for the III Corps team's title drive last year.
"One of major reasons we won is the huge command support," he said. "If you're winning the Army championship, your command is promoting it. If you're not doing combatives, you're not going to win. It's that simple. That's what got us to the championship."
Kalili said the Combatives School also still has control over where the tournament takes place, adding it could return to Fort Benning in 2012.
A record 462 Soldiers, representing more than 50 teams, competed in the 2010 Army Combatives Championship last October. Kalili conceded sentiments run high for conducting the tournament here - since Fort Benning is the birthplace of combatives - but losing this year's event hasn't soured any moods among the instructors.
"Combatives is Armywide," he said, "and this is a great incentive for other posts to have it. It will help drive combatives tournaments at other posts. That's really what we want - commanders driving combatives at other posts. The end state is we want all our Soldiers knowing how to fight."
1/50 repeats on Sand Hill
The 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Regiment, has captured back-to-back team titles in the Sand Hill Combatives Tournament.
The battalion posted 87 points to easily outdistance 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment (53) and 2nd Battalion, 54th Infantry Regiment (29). In its first year at Fort Benning after moving from Fort Knox, Ky., the 2nd Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment, grabbed fourth place with 26 points.
The annual tournament, hosted this year by the 192nd Infantry Brigade, took place Feb. 26 at Santiago Fitness Center. More than 100 cadre members from units across Sand Hill competed. The field included three females in the flyweight division and a few Soldiers from the 194th Armored Brigade.
Col. Bruce Parker and Col. Terrence McKenrick, commanders of the 198th and 192nd Infantry brigades, respectively, were among several leaders who jumped into the fray.
"It's not about the fighting. It's about being a warrior and leading by example," Parker said. "There's some camaraderie in there, too. Everybody likes to see the leaders getting after it.
"If I can drag myself out there, anybody can. To put my body through that is not pleasant, but the outcome of what we're trying to do meant more. Combatives is important for our Soldiers. It's part of our culture. It's what we do as warriors."
Parker didn't just show up, either. At 50, he won a pair of matches to pick up the lightweight title.
Initially, however, the colonel said he didn't think it was a good idea to enter a tournament in which he'd have to face guys half his age.
"But the benefits of demonstrating the warrior ethos and setting a positive example for our Soldiers outweighed the negatives," he said. "These guys are good. ... I thought I got hit by a truck (the next day). I kind of drug myself around for a week, but I healed up."
Sand Hill units also used the event as a tuneup for the MCoE Modern Army Combatives Tournament, which is May 19-20 at Smith Fitness Center. Parker said he might compete in that as well.
"This was our preparation for the MCoE tournament," he said. "It just gives the battalions an idea of their level of preparation."