FORT HOOD, Texas, July 5, 2011 -- On a fight night in Hawaii in 2008, a squad volunteered their platoon sergeant into the ring as a joke. But it wasn't a joke for his opponent, who ended up with a broken nose and collarbone.

“I was scared until he threw the first kick,” Sgt. 1st Class Jesse Thorton said. “Once he threw the first kick and missed, I went into a fight or flight (mode), and that’s when the button turned on, and I had to actually fight.”

For Thorton, that was his first exposure to Army combatives.

He is now a two-time champion of the Fort Hood Combatives Tournament, with an overall record of 14-2, with his two losses coming at last year’s All-Army Tournament where he finished fourth.

Thorton, assigned to Headquarters Support Company, III Corps Special Troops Battalion, is the oldest fighter on the team at 36. Because of that, Thorton has to face quicker and more agile fighters, but he said it’s not a challenge.

“As an older fighter I have a mental advantage,” Thorton said. “I have a mental edge on them because I’m older. I know what it takes to be a champion, and it’s how I win all the time.”

He listed five components that a fighter must have; Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, kickboxing, boxing and Muay Thai. Thorton said striking is the strongest arsenal he has in his tool bag.

“I look to stand up and trade punches,” Thorton said of preferring to stand toe-to-toe and duke it out. “I like to send them straight down the pipe.”

Thorton added that once someone gets punched in the face, they won’t want to fight.

As the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the III Corps Combatives team, Thorton said he plays an important role for the Soldiers.

“As the NCIOC I have a lot of responsibilities,” Thorton said looking around the Kieschnick Physical Fitness Center, the home to the III Corps Combatives team. “I have to take care of the Soldiers and make sure the training facility is the best in the Army.”

Thorton then added that he is also the team’s attitude.

“I give them a sense of attitude,” Thorton said. “They get sucked into a sense of attitude that we are the best and always give a 110 percent. When you bring that sort of attitude, everyone feeds off of it and starts to believe. Once you believe, you can do anything.”

Last year his team won the All-Army Tournament. Thorton said he’s confident that they will win the tournament again this year, which will be hosted at Fort Hood, July 20-23, 2011.

“Last year we had a recipe for success that no one knew about,” Thorton said. “This year, the team is going to have a repeat and have another victory. I think the team is tougher, and we have the right coaches, and we have the right amount of work.”

When asked if Thorton sees himself as a role model for the other fighters, he said "no."

Kristopher Perkins, the III Corps Combatives director, disagreed.

“He is the guy who is setting the standards,” Perkins said. “He is setting the standard to a professional level, and even after he leaves, the standard will stay.”

One of the younger Soldiers he teaches on the team is Sgt. James Bruner, Company B, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, who he fought and defeated in semi-finals at the Fort Hood Tournament this year.

Thorton said he realized how much talent Bruner had and offered him a spot on the team.

“You learn a lot about someone when you fight them,” Thorton said. “I took him under my wing because I knew this guy has something we can teach.”

Bruner has been a part of the combatives team for two months and he said that the experience he is gaining here from all the fighters, especially Thorton, has really helped him.

“He’s a good fighter,” Bruner said. “I’ve learned a lot from him, and he has a lot of good knowledge to share.”

Even though Thorton has beaten Bruner in the past, Bruner says that with all the skills he is learning, he will eventually take Thorton down.

“One day,” Bruner said with a smile, “I will get him.”

Thorton has been fighting for three years and considers himself a natural fighter, which to him means that he never gives up.

“I always have the will to win,” Thorton said. “I am always embedded with the Warriors Ethos, and I always give 110 percent in everything.”