FORT HOOD, Texas, July 20, 2011 -- Let the fighting begin.

Sixty-five teams from around the world have sent more than 400 fighters to compete in the 2011 U.S. Army Combatives Championship starting July 21, 2011, in Fort Hood’s Abrams Physical Fitness Center.

For Fort Hood’s III Corps team, this is their chance to defend their title from last year, with the added bonus of being able to do it on their home turf.

On the outside, combatives could be seen as an individual sport. But if looked at a little closer, it’s apparent that the main goal is for a Soldier to win matches to benefit their team. The tournament’s scoring system favors fighters who go deeper in the tournament.

To sum it up, the most points are earned for having a champion at a weight class. Also, a fighter gets more points for their team if they win by submission, because it encourages Soldiers to finish the fight.

First Lt. David Mason, a bantamweight fighter for III Corps, said that for the team to repeat as champions, they need the fighters that are dominant at their weight class to not just win, but to submit their opponents.

“Hearing that from our guys shows that they’re not coming into this as an individual,” III Corps Combatives Director Kristopher Perkins said. “For example, Mason could easily win, but he’s looking to earn points for the team and submit people. They’re fighting as a team to win as a team.”

In each match, Perkins said that points are awarded for doing things that reflect what should be done in combat.

“Ending up in the mount is worth four points,” he said. “Why? Because if you’re sitting on a guy’s chest in combat, you’re winning.”

The preliminary bouts that begin July 21 fall under basic rules; they’re scored similar to a wrestling match with the addition of Jui-Jitsu, or submissions. For day-one fights, eight mats will cover the Abrams gym.

Heading in to day two, July 22, the bouts follow intermediate rules, allowing for kicks, knees, open hands to the face and punches to the body. This will be the first chance for fighters who favor striking to shine.

Day Three, they enter the cage. The final day of competition, July 23, begins at 4 p.m. and will feature the bouts to decide third and fourth place, followed by the championship bouts in each of the eight weight classes. These matches are governed by advanced rules, which resembles a professional mixed martial art fight, with the exception of knees to the head and throwing elbows.

This is when Soldiers have the chance to display themselves as an all-around fighter.

“All weight classes have put in the work and the required time and effort to win,” said Perkins, sharing his last thoughts before the start of the tournament. “There is luck involved, but hard training overcomes a lot of luck, and we’ve put in the time and the hours and the sweat.”
He added, “We’ve earned it; we just have to go take it now.”

As Fort Hood hosts the tournament, one unit is providing the behind-the-scenes support to help make everything happen.

The 36th Engineer Brigade is responsible for command and control of support requirements for the tournament. Captain Reginald Smith, the point person from the brigade, said tasks will include taking care of parking detail, general event detail, providing the emcee and national anthem singer, along with completing all of the setup and teardown required for the event.

“They’re the muscle behind setting this whole thing up,” Perkins said.

“Basically, we just have to make sure that everything is professionally executed and that everyone comes together to make it go well,” Smith said.

While the setup for the tournament began July 18 with around 100 of the unit’s Soldiers moving in the mats to cover the gym floor of Abrams gym, preparation for the event began months ago.

“We’ve been working this with III Corps very closely for about two months now,” said Maj. Neil Doherty, 36th Eng. Bde. “We have one battalion, the 20th Engineers Battalion, which is supplying most of the Soldiers for the support details.”

Perkins said the task is definitely a big thing on the brigade’s plate, but they’ve given it the respect that it demands.

“How the event is executed, and how the Soldiers and the public view the event, is really a reflection on not just Fort Hood, but on us,” Doherty said.

With mats for day one and day two already in place, the finale will bring its own set of challenges " setting up the cage.

“I haven’t seen the cage,” Smith said. “But from what I’ve heard, it’s definitely going to take the 50-man setup detail to make that happen in a timely manner.”

The tournament wraps up July 23, but for the 36th Eng. Bde., that’ll be the start of the teardown process.

“Our brigade commander is definitely taking pride in this,” Smith said, “and is making sure that it is professionally executed.”