Service members go face to face at X-Mas Bash Extravaganza

Story and photos by Spc. Michael Camacho
139th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — The stadium was filled with cheers, the sounds of men being pummeled and bodies hitting the mat, at Joint Base Balad, Iraq's X-mas Bash Extravaganza, hosted by 1st Battalion, 155th Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Dec. 19 here at JBB.

The boxing tournament featured seven weight classes and competitors faced people in the same class, said Capt. Brady Williamson, the commander of E Company, 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms.

Spc. Moya Diego, a helicopter maintenance specialist with D Company, 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment and a Clute, Texas, native, took the welter weight (141 pounds to 150 pounds) championship.

Sgt. Antonio Lester, a truck mechanic with the 518th Tactical Installation Network Company and a Statesboro, Ga., native, took the middle weight (156 to 170 pounds) championship.

Spc. Eric Spradley, a combat engineer with A Company, 37th Engineer Battalion and a Cincinnati native, took the cruiser weight (171 pounds to 185) championship.

Airman 1st Class Sean Scott, a radar maintenance specialist with the 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron and a Jacksonville, Fla., native, took the light-heavy weight (186 pounds to 205 pounds) championship.

Spc. Russell Bond, an operations assistant with C Company, 7th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment and a Cambia, Ore., native, claimed the heavy weight (205 or more pounds) championship.

Competition inspires service members to stand above the rest, said Williamson, an Oxford, Miss., native.

"Contact sports such as combatives, boxing and martial arts inspire Soldiers to become more physically and mentally fit," he said. "With intense physical training and a competitive event, the Soldiers get a level of focus to push themselves and get into a good fighting shape."

Not all service members are motivated to get in shape solely for an excellent Army physical fitness test score, said Williamson. When a Soldier puts on a pair of gloves and gets into the ring, that is motivating, he said.

Williamson said competitors trained for weeks to prepare for the tournament.

"Preparation and participation in these types of events allow officers, (noncommissioned officers) and junior enlisted (service members) to work together and build camaraderie with their fellow Soldiers in a friendly competitive environment," he said.

Contact sports appeal to a much broader audience, drawing in competitors from all branches, said Williamson.

Williamson said there were varying levels of boxing experience, but many fighters getting into the ring were beginnners.

Each match consisted of three, one-minute rounds, with judges deciding the victor. Scores were based on each fighter's effort, technique, skill and performance, he said

Williamson said safety was a high priority, so medics sat in each corner to check any injuries sustained during the fight. Also, boxers wore protective headgear, mouth guards and 16 oz. gloves.

"Medics and nurses from all over JBB volunteered to assist in pre and post fight needs," he said. "We did not expect any major injuries and there were none."

The only injuries were bruises, bloody noses and headaches, all of which were expected, said Williamson.

Spending time with coworkers and fellow service members at any event is a great morale booster, said Capt. Gracey Cavavos, a clinical nurse with the 332nd Contingency Aero-medical Staging Facility.

"This is awesome," said Cavavos, a Houston native. "We're coming out with our group after work and we're having a good time supporting our guys, so morale is definitely up 150 percent."

As spectators watched, the fighters experienced their own excitement.

"You can't really compare it to other sports, it's one-on-one," said Bond, the heavy weight champ. "At first, there's a little bit of butterflies and adrenaline but, once you get in and throw a couple punches, it goes away and you get focused on who you're fighting."

More than 30 people signed up to fight in the X-mas Bash Extravaganza and the large crowd showed a lot of support, said Williamson.

"We appreciate all the volunteers, especially with (visiting) cheerleaders and bands on post that night," he said. "All participants and spectators conducted themselves with excellent sportsmanship and military bearing."

Williamson said the 1 /155th BCT plans to sponsor more events in the upcoming months, including the Freedom Fight in early February.


news photo
Spc. Eric Spradley, a combat engineer with A Company, 37th Engineer Battalion and a Cincinnati native, faces off with an opponent during one of the cruiser weight matches at the X-mas Bash Extravaganza boxing tournament Dec 19 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. Spradley took the cruiser weight champion title. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Camacho)